Nurses may represent the largest proportion of the nation’s health workforce, but they are in high demand nonetheless.
Health bodies Australia-wide are warning the nursing shortage will worsen within five years, with dire repercussions for already over-stretched and under-resourced hospitals and medical practices.
The exodus of nurses, carers, lifestyle workers, and allied health professionals from the workforce was sparked by the global financial crisis. But while the economy has largely recovered, several research surveys have found nurses are still disheartened by low wages, poor relocation assistance, and disruptive work hours.
The most recent set of Australian Government Department of Employment occupational reports highlight increasing demand for enrolled nurses (ENs) in Queensland, the Australian Capital Territory, and regional Victoria. Low numbers of registered nurses (RNs) were also recorded in Queensland, New South wales, and Western Australia, particularly in mental health and aged-care sectors.
A lack of awareness of the benefits associated with working in the aged care industry is largely to blame, according to Labour Solutions Australia (LSA) healthcare expert Chris Waxman.
“We face a situation in Australia where there are not enough nurses and support staff to meet demand. Many hospital administrators are reporting low applicant rates for positions, particularly for RN and midwife roles. And, in the jobs that are attracting applicants, many job seekers are reported to have poor communication skills and don’t appropriately address selection criteria,” Chris says.
“This suggests the industry systematically fails in not only attracting candidates, but also in attracting the right candidates for the right roles.”
For regional and remote areas, there are even greater challenges. Research suggests employers consider up to 65 per cent of applicants unsuitable for vacancies in non-metropolitan regions due to a lack of practical experience working in remote locations, along with awareness of Indigenous culture and health issues. Add to this the nursing workforce is ageing and it’s no surprise health administrators are looking elsewhere for help.
Enter skilled migration. Foreign nationals make happy wheels up roughly 25 per cent of all new entrants in Australia’s nursing workforce each year.
“Industry needs to move with the times and think ‘global’. As we’ve seen in other industries – such as FMCG and food processing, as well as support service roles including cooks, gardeners and cleaners – employing foreign clinical care workers on permanent work visas and temporary 457 visas comes with unique benefits,” Chris says.
“For one, they offer like-for-like replacement for nurses scaling back their clinical hours as they transition into other roles or approach retirement, meaning employers aren’t faced with a skills deficit while students graduate and gain those important first few years of experience.”
Research also suggests migrant nurses are more loyal and appreciative of the opportunity to live and work in Australia. For remote healthcare organisations struggling to attract and retain staff, the decreased turnover that comes from employing overseas-trained staff is particularly attractive.
“Staff who enjoy their work and stay in the job for more than 12 months are more efficient and, therefore, cost-effective. But there is a more important benefit to strong staff retention: a stable workforce leads to significantly improved patient outcomes.
Of course, nurses from culturally diverse backgrounds bring new skills and different communication styles to their employer. According to Chris, this has a positive effect on individual patient experience and also improves cultural awareness throughout the entire workforce.
This is where LSA comes in. With experience in recruitment, compliance, injury reduction, workforce management, and placement, LSA is committed to finding positive solutions to engage local and overseas nurses, and boost the numbers of clinical and support staff throughout Australia.
To address Australia’s nursing crisis, more and more healthcare administrators will be asked to endorse or review a crisis management plan that deals with labour shortage. Contact Chris on 1300 268 986 to ensure your workforce has the capacity to provide sustainable health care solutions today and tomorrow.