Safe workloads would help fix Australia’s nurse shortage, union says

01 September 2022

Achieving safe workloads for nurses is more important than higher wages when it comes to stopping health workers from cutting back hours or leaving the sector altogether, the nurses union has said, as the jobs and skills summit begins in Canberra.

Annie Butler, the national secretary of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, said governments needed to pay more attention to keeping registered nurses in the profession, rather than training new recruits or scouring overseas markets for them.

“There is little point recruiting more and more and more nurses if you don’t fix the conditions in which those people are going to work,” Butler said before the two-day summit. “Retention is key.”

The union said national health workforce dataset from the federal health department showed 27,285 registered nurses and midwives were not in the labour force in 2021. That tally would probably have increased for 2022 given the extended demands on staff around Australia during the Covid pandemic, Butler said.

“Many nurses are truly exhausted and genuinely need a rest. During successive waves of Covid, leave got cancelled and people got called back to work. There was just this unrelenting and constant demand.”

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