The Australian Nursing Federation is demanding state and federal politicians act now to curb the cost-cutting attack on nursing, midwifery and care staff.
The ANF federal executive has launched a national campaign, titled 'Stop passing the buck, Australia’s nursing grads need jobs!', in response to “slash and burn budget-cuts” threatening the future of the nation’s nursing and midwifery workforce.
It comes as state governments across many states of Australia are moving to slash health budgets, resulting in a major decrease in jobs for nursing graduates.
At this stage, Queensland is the worst affected, with just 270 nurses, or less than 10 per cent, of the 2765 applications Queensland Health received through its graduate nurse online recruitment system receiving job offers in the latest round.
There is also anecdotal evidence the cutbacks have prompted some Queensland nursing students to swap courses amid fears they won’t be able to secure employment when they graduate.
Queensland is not alone. In Victoria, more than 800 graduate nurses will be left without jobs, employment of Tasmanian nursing graduates is down 40 per cent, while New South Wales and South Australia’s public health sectors are also facing major cost-saving cuts.
“With a predicted shortage of nurses as high as 109,000 nurses by 2025, the non-employment of graduate nurses by state governments is staggering,” ANF federal secretary Lee Thomas said in a statement.
Ms Thomas said recent “savings” had also resulted in the sacking of highly-trained nurses and the closure of hospital beds while vital mental health services and public and preventative health programs have been abandoned.
“Billions of dollars have been slashed from public health systems across Australia and it is nurses and midwives and the people they care for, each and every day, who are suffering as a result of it,” she said.
“The ANF believes these cost-cutting exercises are nothing but a direct attack on nursing, midwifery and care staff and their daily working conditions across the public health system.”
The union is calling on governments to support a raft of strategies in a bid to secure employment for nursing graduates and for the ongoing promotion of safe patient care.
Measures include waiving HECS fees for graduates who accept employment in areas of need, state and federal government funding for 24-hour, seven day-a-week clinical supervision and mentoring, rotation through non-traditional graduate areas such as primary care and aged care, and joint state and federal funding for graduate positions.
The ANF is also calling for Health Workforce Australia to urgently conduct research into the career moves of graduates who miss out on nursing positions.
A spokesperson for Federal Health Minister Tanya Plibersek said graduate positions are an issue for state and territory governments and private employers.
“While the Australian Government is working with the states and territories to build a highly trained and well qualified health workforce, the majority of nurses are employed by state or territory governments or private employers, and it is these employers who are responsible for determining the availability of graduate positions,” he said.
“The completion of a graduate year, or transition to practice program, is not a requirement for registration as a nurse or midwife.
“Outside of the hospital setting, there are a number of other areas of employment, including aged care, primary health care and the disability sector.”
The spokesperson said nurses should check the online Nursing and Midwifery Graduate Jobs Portal, an initiative of Health Workforce Australia, which provides information about transition to practice programs and employment opportunities for graduate nurses and midwives in the public, private and not-for-profit sector across Australia.
Nurses can join the campaign, sending an email to state and federal health ministers here.