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More health training for undergraduates

Clinical training for health professionals has been given a shot in the arm.

Extra undergraduate places for health professionals will be supported by a boost in clinical training days, with nurses to see the highest increase.

The government has announced funding for up to 12,000 additional university places and 1.2 million additional training days annually – an increase 23.4 per cent compared to 2009 across 41 universities and more than 700 training providers.

Of the extra days, Health Workforce Australia (HWA) has allocated 385,440 to nurses. The majority, 266,425 will be in the public health system and the remainder in the private and non-government organisations.

Midwifery will get an extra 81,649 days and medicine an extra 197,998.

Acute hospitals will get the bulk of the days, 141,598, followed by primary and community health care at 63,970 and mental health at 54,294.

Aged care, a sector that is particularly struggling to recruit and retrain nurses has been allocated an extra 26,127 days.

Health Minister Nicola Roxon said HWA allocated the places to the professions, and settings, in highest demand after conducting the first ever nationwide workforce planning process.

Roxon admitted money for the new training spots was promised in November 2008 under a $1.6 billion Council of Australian Governments national workforce partnership but defended the time taken to roll out the new training program.

“This sort of significant reform does take time to deliver properly,” Roxon said.

“I think that it will make a big difference over the coming years and much closer to the places where people live.”

On how the additional training days will benefit patients, Roxon said it’s about providing access to well-trained, qualified staff.

This was especially the case for rural communities, which was allocated 37 per cent of the additional training days, she said.

“By making sure we’re training more people in our rural and regional communities, where the shortages have been severe, we’re ensuring that hospital services are going to be viable in those communities.”

In its future work, HWA will undertake a comprehensive set of profession and specialty specific training plans for graduating nurses and medical officers.  It is also working on the issue of clinical placements for overseas students.

The new training places will be available at the start of the 2011 academic year.

The details of training placement providers will be available at www.hwa.gov.au.

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