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New approach needed to sustain workforce

With insufficient numbers entering nursing, new innovative models of recruitment and retention are needed.

Insanity, according to Albert Einstein, is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. And it could soon be a definition that is applied to the nursing profession and government, says nurses.

Despite a number of groups best efforts, supply and demand in nursing has been out of synch and there doesn’t seem to be a reprieve in sight, said Kate Birrell, group director of nursing for the St John of God Health Care.

“Maybe it is time to listen to Einstein’s point. Nurses have become a scarce commodity in Australia, and across the world, and as figures show, what we have been doing to address this hasn’t been working,” she said at the recent RCNA Nursing Summit.

“There are insufficient numbers entering nursing, but on the other hand we hear stories about graduate nurses struggling to get a placement. It doesn’t make sense.”

Birrell said there now needed to be a push to think outside the box and cut out the “rhetoric and quick fixes”.

“Nurses do not want to be a lost commodity. Are we guilty of Einstein’s brand of insanity? We have mainly done the same thing to attract and retain nurses time and time again, but it hasn’t worked.

“We need true innovative models for recruitment and retention.”

One solution to do this, according to nurses and led by the RCNA, is to develop a national nursing and midwifery workforce strategy.

Dr Stephanie Fox-Young, RCNA president, said discussions at the summit highlighted the need for a comprehensive strategy to broaden the analysis of workforce issues that look beyond supply and demand for nurses and midwives.

“A national strategy is essential to set goals to guide workforce planning across the entire health care sector for the benefit of the community,” she said.

“The profession has identified at the summit that a national strategy is vital to ensure the sustainability of an appropriately educated, flexible and responsive nursing and midwifery workforce.

“Australia’s future nursing and midwifery workforce needs to continue to evolve to meet the rapidly changing and challenging health and well being needs of the community. A workforce strategy is an essential framework to support health care reform.”

Apart from ensuring a sufficient supply of nurses and midwives, the strategy should “address the need for the workforce to be well supported into the workplace, mentored and retained”, according to the RCNA’s communiqué.

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