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Quarter of Australian primary health care nurses contemplate exit


Australia is grappling with a worsening nursing shortage, with a quarter of primary health care (PHC) nurses contemplating leaving their positions within the next two to five years, according to the Australian Primary Health Care Nurse’s Association’s (APNA) 2022 Workforce Survey.

The survey, the largest of its kind with around 4,000 respondents, underscores the need for urgent measures to retain experienced nurses and establish sustainable recruitment and training pipelines for the next generation of primary health care nurses.

APNA President Karen Booth warns that this sustained pressure has led to a crisis in meeting Australia’s primary healthcare needs. The potential departure of skilled nurses could impact aged care homes, general practices, and other primary health care settings. Booth emphasises the loss not only in workforce investment but also in corporate knowledge that would typically support new workforce entrants.

The Reasons Behind the Crisis:

  • Aged Care Sector Challenges: Nurses in aged care feel overwhelmed by constant change, uncertainty regarding a potential 15% pay increase, and inadequate staffing levels.
  • General Practice Issues: Nurses in general practice are underutilised, while Nurse Practitioners face restrictions on applying their advanced training and skills.

Booth urges action, emphasising that primary healthcare nurses are crucial for managing patients with chronic health conditions and keeping them healthy and out of hospitals. She calls for the establishment of sustainable recruitment and training pipelines for the next generation of primary health care nurses.

Government Initiatives and the Way Forward:

Booth acknowledges the Albanese Government’s initiatives, such as the national Scope of Practice review, additional clinical placements, Nurse Practitioner scholarships, and incentives to reintegrate PHC nurses into the workforce. She highlights the Government’s plans to reform Medicare around a multidisciplinary model of care as a positive step.

Booth calls on the Government to build on these efforts by accelerating and committing to funding the delivery of the Nursing Workforce Strategy. She emphasises the need for nurses to play a pivotal role in shaping the future direction of the workforce and calls on decision-makers to ensure the visibility of primary healthcare nurses in health policy development.

Booth urges state, territory, and federal governments, as well as health departments, to actively involve primary health care nurses in policy development and to listen to their collective voice in future reviews.

“Now is the time for a call to arms for nurses to help inform the future direction of our workforce,” Booth said.

“Decision makers in state, territory, and federal governments and health departments can make a real difference to primary health care nurses by ensuring they are highly visible in health policy development and that the collective voice of primary health care nursing continues to be heard in all future reviews.”

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Ritchelle is a Content Producer for Healthcare Channel, Australia’s premier resource of information for healthcare.


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