Growing pressures on the nursing and midwifery professions have prompted a group of health and government representatives to discuss the wide-ranging workforce challenges at a networking breakfast in Sydney.
The NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA) brought together stakeholders from federal and state governments, the university sector, professional health bodies, private health operators and aged care providers to examine the key pressures impacting nurses and midwives.
NSWNMA General Secretary, Shaye Candish, said it was an opportunity to network on workforce policy solutions and reflect on international research to better support our health sectors across all jurisdictions.
“The NSWNMA is uniquely positioned to identify the various pressures upon the nursing and midwifery professions in public and private facilities and aged care, and we’re determined to ensure likeminded stakeholders are collaborating to combat these issues,” said Ms Candish.
“We’ve got a situation where various decision makers, professional bodies or academia are attempting to address some of these challenges, each generating solutions and options for their immediate issue, but collectively we could develop comprehensive solutions to benefit the entire workforce.
“For example, the NSW public health system currently absorbs the lion’s share of newly graduated nurses and midwives, leaving the aged care sector to grapple over how to best attract early career clinicians into their workplaces, at a time when the aged care workforce is required to grow to meet new federal government policies.
“We also have pressures where other jurisdictions are increasing their incentives to study, live and work interstate, such as the Victorian government’s fee-free university policy for registered nurses heading into their public sector. It’s great on the surface but it creates further disparities when there’s a national and international workforce crisis.
“We want to see future subsidies, incentives and training focused specifically on growing and retaining the nursing and midwifery workforce nationally and we hope these discussions continue until it is achieved.”
University of Wollongong Vice Chancellor and registered nurse, Professor Patricia Davidson, set the scene of the challenges from an academic perspective and highlighted the importance of nurturing a sustainable workforce.
“Fundamentally we have to look at the way nurses and midwives work, how we are staffed, as well as recognition and support. In Australia, we have huge opportunity to lead the world in terms of reconfiguring models of care and now is the moment where we can really move forward,” said Professor Davidson.
Australia’s unique ability to educate large numbers of nurses to strengthen the domestic workforce was outlined by Professor Jim Buchan, Senior Fellow at the Health Foundation and Adjunct Professor at the University of Technology Sydney.
“International recruitment gets you numbers, it doesn’t necessarily get you the right nurses with the right skills in the right places,” said Professor Buchan.
“All countries need to be looking at their orientation, the connection between education and practice, particularly early career practice. As well as enabling the nursing contribution to be optimised and developing advanced practice roles, such as nurse practitioners.”
Midwife and President of the Australian College of Midwives, Professor Joanne Gray, emphasised the need for improved staffing levels to ensure a thriving midwifery workforce into the future, including clinical midwifery educators.
“It is vital midwives have workloads that are sustainable, so that they can provide the necessary care women and their babies require. Continuity of midwifery care is the best standard for women, and also for attracting and retaining the midwifery workforce,” said Professor Gray.
The wellbeing of nurses and midwives was discussed, including long term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, based on soon to be published research by the Rosemary Bryant AO Research Centre (RBRC).
RBRC Research and Strategy Manager, Greg Sharplin said a recent survey of nurses and midwives had shown increased levels of burnout and symptoms of post-traumatic stress, linked to workplace concerns such as staffing levels, skill mix and workloads.
There was agreement amongst participants that the situation was urgent and required immediate steps, together with greater collaboration on long term workforce planning.