The Australian College of Nursing (ACN) has welcomed outcomes from the National Jobs and Skills Summit to address nursing workforce shortages but warned more must be done to retain those currently working in the profession.
ACN CEO Adjunct Professor Kylie Ward FACN said nurses are the backbone of Australia’s health system and was pleased the Government prioritised a sustainable nursing workforce in their first months of office. However, The Summit missed an opportunity to develop the skills and expertise of existing nurses.
“ACN welcomes the outcomes of The Summit, particularly the focus on skilled migration – a solution ACN has long championed and recently outlined at the Health Workforce Roundtable in Canberra,” Adjunct Professor Ward said.
“This measure will help fill shortages in urgent areas of need, including rural and remote and aged care.
“With women making up 88 per cent of nurses, it is great to see measures aimed at removing the unacceptable barriers that, for too long, have prevented women from participating fully in the workforce.
“However, it’s a shame more wasn’t done to address retention and development of those currently in the nursing profession.
“Nurses are invaluable to the health of Australians, shaping lives from birth to death and everywhere in between.
“We have been on the frontlines of the fight to safeguard our communities throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and I have heard first-hand from my nursing colleagues just how much it has affected us.
“The Government needs to look at innovative planning and significant investment in our profession.
“As ACN presented at the Health Workforce Roundtable, a one-off waiving of HECS fees for nurses and nursing students to acknowledge the immense sacrifices made during the COVID-19 pandemic would have been significant.
“Another area of focus must be supporting Enrolled Nurses (ENs) to expand and develop their skillset.
“This provides ENs essential professional development opportunities without having to transition to a Registered Nurse.
“These are just two of many ways the Government can recognise the important role nurses play in leading health care across all settings and communities,’ Adjunct Professor Ward said.