Proposed changes to university debt repayment thresholds have the very real potential of making nursing study unattractive and exacerbate anticipated workforce shortages.

“To push nurse graduates to repay their university loans before establishing permanent and secure employment is unfairly handicapping graduates from realising their potential and poses another negative factor to those choosing a career in the nursing profession,” Australian College of Nursing CEO Adjunct Professor Kylie Ward FACN said.

The nursing workforce in Australia is predicted to have a shortage of 125,000 nurses by 2030. Lowering university debt repayment thresholds combined with cuts in healthcare education funding for universities, is exceptionally short-sighted when now is the time Australia needs to be developing a skilled workforce to meet the nation’s future health care demands.

Women make up more than 90% of the nursing workforce which also means that these changes will in the main unfairly disadvantage working women.

“There is already immense pressure on students training to be a nurse. People enter nursing because it is a vocation, not for financial gain, but we still have to ensure this vital workforce is able to live on their salary. Bringing forward the point in their career where nurses have to pay back their university fees places an added strain and denies them what would have been a few more years of saving and preparation for their future,” Adjunct Professor Ward said.

“We must invest in nurses at all stages of their careers to ensure Australia has a sustainable nursing workforce. Education is an integral aspect of ensuring that Australia has the health care workforce that it needs to properly care for its community. Investing in our health services and workforce is investing in the health of our population.”

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