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Kiwi nurses continue their exodus across Tasman

New figures reveal over 1700 Kiwi nurses applied to work in Australia in the last year, Fiona Cassie reports.

The number of Kiwi nurses seeking work in Australia continues to grow but the nursing workforce in New Zealand is also increasing steadily, the latest Nursing Council statistics show.

To find out more about these and other trends, the Nursing Council of New Zealand is to launch a longitudinal study to follow cohorts of new graduates and newly registered overseas nurses entering the workforce.

Carolyn Reed, chief executive of the Nursing Council, said more than 2050 nurses in 2010-11 applied to the council for registration verification so they could work overseas. "What is probably more significant is that 1702 of those applied to go to Australia," she said.

And that number has been growing steadily. Council figures show in the previous two years about 1500 nurses sought work across the Tasman compared with 1250 in 2007/2008.

But the total number seeking to work overseas has remained relatively steady at about 2000 a year, compared with the record exodus in 2002, when 2270 nurses sought to work offshore.

The increased exodus to Australia may partly be due to the traditional overseas experience destination of the United Kingdom reducing to a trickle in recent years through tough registration requirements and fewer jobs. Likewise, the number of UK nurses heading down-under has steadily dropped in the past decade from a peak of 850 to just 228 in the past year.

Instead nurses from the Philippines (434) and India (331) dominated the 1300-plus overseas-trained nurses that successfully sought registration in New Zealand. That steady stream of overseas-trained nurses, combined with 380 home-grown graduates did help the number of Kiwi nurses, with annual practising certificates growing by 3 per cent to 4852. Reed said while the number of nurses with annual practicing certificates (APCs) has grown it is not known whether all of them have actually got jobs.

The council is to start tracking a cohort of new graduates and a cohort of newly registered overseas-trained nurses to get the "bigger picture" of employment patterns for nurses entering the workforce.

Reed said the longitudinal study would not individually follow nurses but group together and analyse the annual practising certificate information gathered yearly from those two cohorts.

She said the council wanted to know the average age of the nurses entering the workforce, their gender, ethnicity, and whether they were working and their type of employer. They would then continue to follow the cohort to ascertain how many cohort nurses continued to hold an APC; how many sought verification to work overseas; changed their scope of practice; gained further qualifications; and took time out from the workforce. The council would also monitor any competence or discipline referrals of the cohorts.

Reed said she hoped to be able to start the study retrospectively with the cohort registered between April 1, 2010 and 31 March, 2011 but was still seeking guidance from council information analysts.

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