Australia’s healthcare system has reached its crisis point; surge workforces could provide urgent relief to a nursing industry under stress
The Australian College of Nursing (ACN) has today responded to the incredible pressure on the nursing profession, with a position statement supporting surge workforces and outlining the concerns and recommendations for Federal, State and Territory governments.
The recommendations argue for the optimisation of the distribution of the nursing workforce across Australia in times of crisis and ease the immediate burden on the public health care system.
Several State and Territory governments have proposed surge workforce authorisations which allow nursing, midwifery, medical and pharmacy students, other allied health professionals and laboratory technicians, to support in key areas of the pandemic response, including administration of vaccinations.
Adjunct Professor Kylie Ward FACN, CEO of ACN says although a large portion of the nursing community are overworked and are at risk of burn out, many have been left out of the COVID-19 response plan.
“Nursing is an incredibly diverse field with multiple specialisations, who are all highly trained and skilled to provide care and support in the current climate.
“A key example of nurses being overlooked in the vaccination rollout are nurse practitioners who work in rural and remote areas, who are often the sole healthcare provider in the community. They’ve been largely excluded in the rollout efforts despite having the skills to administer vaccinations.
“So many nurses who have retired or taken a break from the industry want to join the fight and provide support. However, they’ve been overlooked in the efforts to address nursing shortages,” says Adjunct Professor Kylie Ward.
ACN has developed four key recommendations directed at the government and health industry to ensure the surge workforce is responsibly implemented and will relieve pressure on the nursing community. The recommendations include:
- All tiers of government work with ACN to consider alternative models of care and service delivery as well as and the skill mix of an appropriately governed nursing workforce, including supervision of undergraduate students.
- State and Territory governments actively recruit and optimise all nurses in surge workforces including: enrolled nurses, registered nurses, nurse practitioners and nurses who have left the profession.
- Any task that does not require nursing expertise should be immediately reallocated so that clinical care can remain the primary focus for nurses.
- Only regulated health professionals should be authorised to administer COVID-19 vaccinations and undertake testing, including students under appropriate supervision and governance frameworks to support safe administration.
The surge workforce can be highly successful in relieving pressure on the highly stretched healthcare system but only if it is done correctly. Representing over 100,000 of Australia’s 400,000 nurses, ACN seeks to work with the government to ensure the profession gets the support it needs.
ACN is hosting a webinar on Tuesday, 14 September, ‘The Pending National Nursing Workforce Crisis’, to discuss its surge workforce position statement and the future of nursing with six expert panelists.
The panelists include Adjunct Professor Kylie Ward, CEO, ACN; Professor Christine Duffield, President, ACN; Adjunct Professor Alanna Geary, Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer, Metro North Hospital and Health Service; Professor Leanne Boyd, Executive Director Learning and Teaching / Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer; Professor Tracey Moroney, Chair, Council of Deans of Nursing and Midwifery and Tanya Vogt, Executive Officer, Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia.
The webinar is open to the public and free to join, view event information and register here.