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Vic hospitals reduce midwifery intake

Victorian midwifery graduates are frustrated over a lack of graduate positions, Linda Belardi reports.

Less than half of Monash University’s midwifery graduates have been offered a graduate position within the state’s public maternity units next year.

Dr Carole Gilmour, course co-ordinator of the Bachelor of Midwifery degree, told Nursing Review that only 18 of the university’s 46 graduating students had gained employment with the Victorian Department of Health in its final round of offers.

A further three students had already secured a place within the private system and remaining private sector places have been inundated with applications from surplus graduates seeking jobs.

Victoria’s six other midwifery schools were believed to be in a similar situation as the state’s larger hospitals have reduced their graduate programs for 2012. Box Hill Hospital took on four midwifery graduates, Eastern Health only accepted double degree midwives and Southern Health reduced their graduate program to 14 students, mainly double degree students, she said.

Fifty per cent of final year students at the Australian Catholic University are also understood to be without an offer of graduate employment. Rising university enrolments since 2009, increased overseas recruitment and declining new graduate positions are understood to be compounding the issue.

“Hospitals facing shortages of experienced nurses and midwives have looked at bringing in staff from overseas. However, staff have only begun to arrive from the beginning of the year which is part of the reason why we are seeing a shortage of new positions this year,” said Gilmour.

She said students were considering interstate, regional and private sector options, with six already placed but for many students with families this was not viable. “A lot of our students who are affected by it have families and are not in a position to move great distances. The concern is that these students will be lost to the system, just as Victoria faces a shortage of midwives.”

With Victorian government proposals to replace high-skilled workers with less qualified staff, the future employment of graduates remained uncertain, she said.

“Is it protected from happening in future years if the government is looking at replacing our nursing students and experienced staff with health assistants?”

A Bachelor of Midwifery student at Monash, Danielle Rose, said she was concerned about her career progression and skill development as a practising midwife and had unsuccessfully sought a meeting with the Health Minister, David Davis.

Direct-entry bachelor of midwifery students also appeared to be disproportionately affected in the 2012 offers, when compared with double degree bachelor of nursing/bachelor of midwifery graduates.

“While it’s not essential to have a graduate year, it is not possible to get a position of a midwife without one,” said Gilmour.

“From our perspective, it is very rare that Monash students are not offered graduate positions and, if they don’t have an offer, within a month they have usually found a position somewhere else. We are uncertain if this will be the case in 2012.”

Comment was still being sought from the Victorian Department of Health at the time of going to press.

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