Australia facing nursing shortage as more than two years of COVID takes its toll

22 July 2022

Australia is in the midst of a health crisis — one it cannot staff.

More than two and a half years into the pandemic, COVID cases are once again on the rise. Nurses are needed more than ever, but they are burnt out and fatigued, and some are even leaving the industry.

Unions say the country is facing a significant nursing shortage and things are only going to get worse.

Royal Perth Hospital nurse Julie-Marie Hay has worked in the industry for 20 years, and said she was thinking about quitting because the pace was "relentless".

"We're constantly short of staff, we're constantly asked to do more, we're constantly asked to work more hours," she said.

"Everybody is stretched, everybody is tired, we're just absolutely exhausted. Morale is terrible. We're not there for each other anymore. We can't be, we don't have time to be. We need more nurses, but we also need to retain more nurses," she said.

The number of registered nurses in Australia has increased year on year — even during the pandemic.

But the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) said there was still a severe shortage.

"The number of vacant positions being advertised currently has doubled since this time last year," said ANMF Federal Secretary Annie Butler.

"There's at least 8,000 across the country, but we know that's probably an underestimate."

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