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Grads flock to Gold Coast

Planning and forecasting for the future workforce should be a nationwide focus to protect the needs of our graduate nurses, says Professor Ged Williams, executive director of nursing and midwifery at Gold Coast Hospitals and Health Service. By Amie Larter

As the ANF's "Stop passing the buck, Australia's nursing grads need jobs" campaign reaches full swing with more than 2650 emails to politicians, Gold Coast Health (GCH) is using a different approach to ensure future graduate placements.

GCH has taken on more than 25 per cent of the total graduate placements allocated by Queensland for 2013 - 138 graduates in January, with an expected 30 to 40 more to come on board midyear. This is an increase from last year, where the total intake was 120 students.

Williams suggested this success was due to planning, and that a planning framework and strategic initiatives needed to be applied at a district, state and national level. "The community cannot afford for all these graduates to not work this year. Because if they do not work this year - they are highly unlikely to come back into the industry and we are going to lose them for good. What's lacking is a sense of urgency and a sense of proper measurement to inform the decisions that need to be made," he said.

The team at GCH uses an in-house designed commercial workforce planning tool WorkMAPP, as well as electronic roster system, eRoster, to effectively manage workforce supply and demand equations that inform both long-term and short-term staff planning respectively.

"Using WorkMAPP, we can model different scenarios like a high attrition rate, nursing shortage, or any other situation that would increase service requirements," said Williams. "We put the information into the tool and it calculates how many nurses we might require at different levels across the district in the outgoing years."

The team uses the eRoster tool to gain retrospective data on patterns of sick leave and resignations throughout the year to ascertain when you are more likely to need and or lose more nurses. This information is then applied to prospective forecasting.

"If we know we get a large number of resignations in October or November or if we had a high sick leave rate in August - next year when we are planning our workforce requirements we make sure we have buffers lined up for those particular periods. Such patterns are likely to be seasonal, and to an extent predictable," Williams said.

"These two tools are working hand in glove to give us a really good understanding of how our workforce moves and changes over time, so we can re-forecast what our requirements are."
Data is extracted from the tools and GCH then works collaboratively with universities and other service providers to align what they deliver to create the appropriate amount of opportunities for students once they have completed their studies.

Professor Jenny Gamble, acting head of school at Griffith University's school of nursing and midwifery, believes that GCH is one of the most innovative districts in relation to workforce planning. She said their collaborative approach allows the university to hear and respond effectively to the needs of the industry. "This kind of approach allows us to be much less reactive," she said. "We don't get caught up in that loop of changes in the industry that require sudden tertiary response."
This system also allows students to focus their study and energy on areas of future need for the hospital. "Forward planning identifies a gap and students know they will be able to profile themselves strongly," Gamble said.

"This gives them the cutting edge around employment because they can then target their study to identified work gaps."

GCH also has also implemented a roster where graduates are only on for three days a week - which means that they have only 86 full-time positions available, however, they have a head count of 138.

"We are accepting 138 graduate nurses and midwives working three days per week on a 12-month temporary contract. There is a vulnerability for this year's graduates that at the end of 12 months if they do not secure a permanent job with us, then their employment will cease, to make room for next year's graduates," explained Williams.

"Our current retention rate following the graduate year is 95 per cent."

Of the 119 graduates employed in 2012, 117 are staying on beyond the completion of the program.

"The benefit is, they have 12 months of employment, they have consolidated their training and they are now competent RNs," Williams said. "Even if we can't employ them, they will be much more employable."

Gamble confirmed that students understand that it is a tight market, and even though many would prefer full-time employment, they are delighted and grateful to have a three-day a week position.

"Many are very amenable to the idea that they and their peers get three days a week rather than a whole lot of people missing out because a few people get five days a week," she said.

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