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APNA's new survey found PHC nurses' skills were not used to its' full extent, despite nursing shortages.

WA primary health care nurses found to be undervalued

Western Australia’s primary health care (PHC) nurses were found to be the most underutilised in Australia.

The Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association (APNA) released a survey and found that more than a third of all PHC nurses working in WA were not always utilised.

APNA’s president Karen Booth said nurses needed to be empowered to work and meet WA’s present and future healthcare needs.

"The underutilisation of nurse skills represents a missed opportunity for the WA health system, patients, and employers," Ms Booth said.

"WA’s health system can’t afford to have highly skilled, experienced and motivated PHC nurses sitting underutilised when there is so much more they could be doing."

"Nurse care can include cardiovascular education, vaccinations, wound care, and preventative health approaches such as primary health care screening and advice."

The unused skills of these nurses come despite the Albanese Government needing an additional 14,000 nurses to meet the commitment of 24/7 registered nurses in aged care.

Aged Care Minister Anika Wells acknowledged the staffing requirements would not be met on time and no aged care homes would be forcibly closed. However, the beginning of July saw 70 residents across three facilities close.

Since 2016, there has been a 60 per cent increase in nurses who have taken an extended leave of absence. 

Research by the Australian Primary Healthcare Nurses Association found that 30 per cent were planning to leave nursing within the next five years.

PHC nurses encompass around 15 per cent of Australia’s registered health professionals. With the growing ageing population and subsequent rise in chronic disease prevalence, WA nurses needed to be utilised.

Australian Nurses Federation secretary Janet Reah said WA should step up to help manage and lower the statistic.

"This issue can only be solved with attractive incentives, such as competitive pay to attract more nurses to WA," Ms Reah told Aged Care Insite.

"The state has particularly fallen far behind on attraction of nurses, and when you look at what other states are offering, WA pales in comparison."

"While state competition will continue – as it does – the international effort to attract workers must be more thoroughly targeted, or Australian states will end up handballing nurses between each other with the shortage only being passed around."

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