More Nurses Needed To Treat Aging Australians

nurse with patientThis is a guest post by Matthew Flax.

Dissatisfaction with working conditions and the government’s perceived undervaluing of their services has led many nurses to desert the profession, contributing to a skills shortage that, according to Health Workforce Australia, will only worsen over the next five years.

A National Monash University study found that, out of a sample size of 640 nurses, 15% are likely to leave within the next year, and 100% of nurses who participated in an online poll conducted by the Australian Nursing Federation (ANF) felt that the Australian government did not truly recognize the critical role played by the nursing profession.

Failure to address the issue could result in a healthcare crisis, with Health Workforce Australia predicting a workforce gap of 80,000 to 147,000 by 2025.

According to a spokesman for the Health Minister, training initiatives and undergraduate support programs are being established throughout the country in an effort to provide the workforce with the necessary boost. Furthermore, nursing positions have been given priority by Australia’s immigration program, resulting in much quicker processing times for visa applications made by overseas-trained nurses.

The Issue of Age

The matter is made all the more urgent by Australia’s increasing demand for aged care workers, as it looks to establish a healthcare system capable of catering to the needs of its growing elderly population.

The number of Australians aged over 85 has doubled over the past 20 years, and looks set to comprise at least 18% of the population by 2036. This potential for a generational shift will have significant influence on government policy over the next few years. Speaking at an aged care forum, Senator Fierravanti-Wells called it the most important social issue facing the country.

Aged care brings with it a number of unique challenges, such as caring for patients suffering from dementia. A steady supply of nurses and nursing assistants is pivotal to any attempts to build a healthcare workforce capable of dealing with such challenges.

Yet nurses working in aged care are paid even less than those employed by public hospitals, a fact which may prompt 78% of the nurses who participated in the online ANF poll to leave aged care.

It’s clear that improving wages and working conditions will be an essential step in addressing nursing skill shortages, and the ANF has called on the Australian government to take action towards that end. Initiatives such as the Practice Nurse Incentive Program (PNIP) have been established, but it’s hoped that further efforts will be made to encourage nurses to remain in the profession, so as to ensure Australian healthcare is not left with a severely diminished workforce.

Overseas-trained Nurses in High Demand

In the meantime, staffing agencies are actively promoting Australia as a destination for overseas-trained nurses, and those seeking Australian jobs in nursing will have a number of options available to them when it comes to obtaining entry. For example:

  • The Temporary Work (skilled) visa (subclass 457), which includes nursing as a skill in demand and therefore a candidate for sponsorship.
  • The Employer Nomination Scheme, which grants nursing candidates less than 50 years of age the opportunity to obtain a permanent visa.
  • Skilled Regional Sponsor Migration Scheme is available to nurses willing to work in low population areas.
  • Skilled Independent Visa Scheme is an option for nurses unable to obtain a sponsorship, provided they score the required number of points on the assessment test.

Those who wish to participate in Australian nursing but lack the necessary skills can gain entry through one of the many training programs on offer, such as the Training and Research (Occupational Trainee Stream) Visa for courses of over 3 months duration, or the Visitor (Business Stream) Visa for those lasting less than three months, as well as the student visa for registered nursing courses.

Author Bio knows that no one wants to wake up in a hospital to find that the janitors have been forced to assume all nursing duties. Especially if one of them is the janitor from Scrubs. This is why he takes comfort in the presence of niche international jobs boards, such as, which help keep countries in all the specialist skills they need.

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