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All trained up with no job to go to

Concern continues about the shortage of graduate positions.

In six years time it is predicted Queensland will face a shortfall of up to 5000 registered nurses. This year about 1500 new graduates couldn’t find employment in a state facility. It is expected another 1000 RN graduates won’t be offered jobs by Queensland Health at the start of 2011. It is a similar story across other states.

How does this make any sense? That is the question nursing groups, and nurses, are asking as they shake their heads in frustration.

As newly-graduated nurses continue to be turned away from hospitals, health and aged care facilities, any efforts being made to avoid the predicted severe nurse shortage are being put at risk, said Gay Hawksworth, Queensland Nurses Union secretary.

“During 2010 alone about 1500 new graduate registered nurses, who applied for positions with Queensland Health, were unsuccessful in gaining employment at a Queensland Health facility. We are also extremely concerned by reports indicating Queensland’s private hospital and aged care sectors are not employing as many new graduates as they could, and should,” Hawksworth said.

“And indications are that, unless urgent action is taken, another 1000 RN graduates will not be offered jobs in Queensland Health at the start of 2011. When you multiply this across the country you can see the magnitude of the state and national problem.”

A “substantial” portion of the 1000 expected South Australian graduates will also be left jobless due to a lack of money to employ them, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation told the Advertiser.

State secretary Elizabeth Dabars said they were “consistently” getting reports from nurses and midwives worried and frustrated that SA Health was planning not to employ all graduate nurses.
Asked whether nurses and midwives would miss out on jobs, an SA Health spokesman told the Advertiser the department was “in the process of planning the graduate nurse intake for 2011”.

In NSW there are also more graduates than positions advertised, as one would-be-nurse discovered on completing her studies last year.

“I was one of the group that missed out,” she told Nursing Review.

“Clearly I was a little naive, as all through my time at university and on placements I heard about Australia having a nursing shortage, so I assumed I would be guaranteed a job. I was wrong.”

While still hoping to gain work in the profession she trained for, she often has second thoughts.

“At the moment I am working in hospitality, which is a bit frustrating considering I thought I’d now be a year into working as a nurse. I have considered giving up and going back to university to study something different,” she said.

Another student, who commented on past stories NR has run on the issue, said as a result, many students were beginning to question nursing as a profession.

“It would appear to me from listening to others in the job that a large part of the problem is that there are not enough experienced preceptors to supervise first year grad nurses,” she said.

“If this is the case why does the government continue to spend money on more university placements instead of spending it on incentives for experienced nurses to return to the profession to train up the new graduates ready to begin their careers?”

Hawksworth said the current situation wasn’t fair to these students.

“The eight universities in Queensland were encouraged to increase their undergraduate numbers to address the current nurse shortage and meet predicted future demand and hospital expansions,” she said.

“As a result, applications for graduate employment within Queensland Health have increased by more than 100 per cent since 2006, while actual employment rates have only increased by 25 per cent.”

“This is a disaster of monumental proportions. Over the last 10 years, billions have been spent, at both the state and federal levels, getting nursing graduate numbers up.

“It will all be a massive waste of money if these people cannot get employment in their chosen career when they graduate.”

The GFC has seen a temporary drop off in things like the retirement rate and that has temporarily reduced the natural vacancies for new graduates, Hawksworth said.

“However, it is only delaying the consequences of an ageing nursing workforce and in a few years the problem will come back worse than ever, especially if we lose these thousands of new graduates because we did not give them work.

“It is time to inject urgent funding into the health and aged care systems, for nurse graduate employment programs, to protect our nursing workforce and our health and aged care systems from the fallout of that same financial crisis. That is, we need some stimulus funding for a few years targeted at graduate nurses.

“A first year, full-time RN in Queensland earns a base salary of $54,500. So we are not talking big money to employ an extra 1000 graduates in 2011. However, it is money that must be spent now to avoid a catastrophe in a few years, which will cost a lot more to fix.”

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