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Aussie nurses are burning out

By Karen Keast | Last Updated: 19-11-2013

Kronos Australia's Nursing Pulse Check report

Australia’s nursing profession is in danger of burning itself out with 51 per cent of nurses planning to exit the sector in the next decade, according to a new survey.

Overwhelming demand for healthcare services coupled with a critical skills shortage is leaving nurses stressed and dissatisfied with their jobs, prompting 17 per cent to concede they will leave the profession in the next five years.

While retirement was the biggest factor for leaving the workforce, at 67 per cent, 33 per cent of nurses blamed excessive workloads, with more than a quarter revealing they care for more than 30 patients a day, on top of inflexible working hours and low salaries.

The February survey of 200 senior and junior nurses, from public and private hospitals, teaching hospitals and aged healthcare centres across Australia,

found 46 per cent of nurses suffered from work-related stress, job dissatisfaction, burn-out and injury in the past 12 months.

Workforce management solutions company Kronos Australia, which commissioned the Nursing Pulse Check survey, said the results were a wake-up call for the sector to embrace a range of solutions, such as better work-life balance opportunities for nurses with more flexible schedules including shorter shift options and school-friendly hours.

Kronos Australia vice president Peter Harte said the survey warned the sector was a ticking time bomb unless changes were made.

“Management need to look at how they can help Australian nurses through better workforce planning and management to alleviate the stresses currently being experienced,” he said.

“They need to listen to the voice of the nurse and look for ways to work together so that the projections of 2020 don’t become a reality.”

The survey also found 56 per cent of nurses blamed excessive workloads as the main barrier to their workplace productivity while 20 per cent cited lack of and ability to use technology.

Ninety-eight per cent of nurses said being surrounded by collaborative and friendly colleagues would boost their productivity, along with a manageable workload, at 97 per cent, and access to technology and the skills to use it, at 95 per cent.

Mr Harte said hospitals have been slow to embrace new technology to help better manage their workplaces.

“Traditionally a paper-based environment, there’s a lot to be gained from looking at how technology can better manage nurses in their day-to-day role,” he said.

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