Thursday 22nd November 2007
The Liberal record on nursing education
Labor’s plan to boost nurse numbers
Kevin Rudd has pledged $81 million to fund a plan to put 9,250 new nurses into Australia’s hospital system.
Within five years, Federal Labor’s plan aims to provide:
The plan comprises:
Labor’s incentives will be open to all nurses working in Australia’s hospital system – including midwives, mental health nurses, theatre nurses and emergency department nurses.
NSWNA General Secretary Brett Holmes says the cash incentives to bring nurses back into the workforce are welcomed but there is still a need to ensure that some of the $2 billion promised to public health is used by the State Government to retain nurses already in the system.
‘That clearly means better wages and working conditions. State governments are already spending thousands of dollars to recruit overseas nurses to fill our shortfall. There is no sensible reason that similar amounts should not be used to get our own Australian nurses back into the health system.’
Hospital-based nursing schools won’t fix a decade of neglect
The federal government’s plan to establish new schools in hospitals is no solution to the nursing shortage.
Responding to what he admitted was a ‘desperate’ shortage of nurses, Prime Minister Howard announced his government would fund 25 schools in public and private hospitals to train an extra 500 enrolled nurses a year.
Howard said students with Year 10 school qualifications would be eligible for the courses, which would usually take about 18 months.
The plan to return to hospital-based nursing schools represents ‘old time thinking from a worn-out government’, said Brett Holmes, NSWNA General Secretary.
‘Nurse training moved to the tertiary sector almost a generation ago because the profession understood it needed highly trained nurses capable of delivering the highest quality care,’ Brett said.
‘Australia needs more university trained nurses with on-the-job experience.’
Howard admitted his government failed to consult with the nursing profession before devising the plan which has been criticised by leading nurse educators.
They include the Acting Dean of Nursing, Midwifery and Health at the University of Technology, Sydney, Denise Dignam, who accused the government of ‘attempting to play on the nostalgia of the public for hospital training.’
Her comments were supported by the Executive Director of the Royal College of Nursing, Rosemary Bryant, who said funds to pay for hospital-based schools would be better spent on more TAFE places for enrolled nurses, more clinical placements for student nurses or more places for nursing students at university.
Even if it goes ahead, the federal govern¬ment’s plan to train an extra 500 enrolled nurses a year is a drop in the bucket com¬pared to the health system’s unmet needs.
Back in 2004, the Howard government was provided with an Australian Health Workforce Advisory Committee Nursing Workforce Planning Report which warned that over the next decade Australia will need up to 13,500 new registered nurses and 5,734 new enrolled nurses each year.
Despite this report, 2,408 applicants were turned away from registered nursing courses at universities last year because there were not enough places.
Federal underfunding of university places remains a core part of the problem.