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ANF issues warning on grad program changes

Belinda Smart | Date Updated:
 

The Australian Nursing Federation (ANF) says urgent action to rectify a dearth of graduate program places is needed to ensure the current shortfall of qualified nurses doesn’t escalate.

ANF acting secretary Paul Gilbert told NCAH the graduate program shortage, which primarily affects the acute care sector, had reached critical levels. “Hospitals have cut back the number of graduate program places available, while the number of graduating nurses has risen in recent years.”

Victoria’s health system was feeling the brunt of the problem, he added. While about 1700 students have received a State Government-funded graduate position at Victorian public hospitals, 1142 students - including Victorians and those who studied interstate - are still looking for a Victorian nursing job.

"This
year the rules have changed, with hospitals saying, 'If you don't do a grad year, you can't get a job as a registered nurse'," Gilbert said.

“This isn’t necessarily the case in other states, but in the Victorian system hospitals won’t receive graduate nurses unless they have completed a graduate program.”

The ANF had written to the Victorian health minister and had not received a response at the time of writing, he said. It had also contacted the Federal Health Minister, leading to a meeting with COAG-backed initiative Health Workforce Australia (HWA) in September with a view to solving the problem.

“One solution would be to distribute the acute care places to all graduates, mixing their experience with other settings, working to ensure the maximum number of graduates get some acute experience.”

“The problem is solvable, but it needs attention now and would require Federal funding support.”

The graduate job shortfall in Victoria comes amid forecasts that Victoria will be short of more than 26,000 registered and enrolled nurses by 2025.

“State and Federal Government reports both recognise the potential impact of these shortfalls,” Gilbert said.

“It’s vital to act now. Once you get to the stage of having really severe shortages you actually end up spending a lot more money to address them.”
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