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February 25, 2021

What we don’t know about nurses and midwives

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A new reports says that nurses and midwives are the nation’s largest and most trusted healthcare profession yet they are also the most under-utilised and under-valued.

Coinciding with launch of Australia’s first bank for nurses and midwives, the annual nursing workforce report, says that one-in-four Australian primary health care nurses say they are under-utilised and could be doing more to maximise their skillset.

The APNA/Health Professionals Bank Workforce Survey involving 2,052 primary health care nurse respondents reveals of the nearly 50 per cent who suggested to their employer they could undertake more complex clinical activities, less than half were permitted to do so.

Release of the findings coincided with the launch of Health Professionals Bank last week – Australia’s first and only bank dedicated exclusively to nurses, midwives, healthcare professionals and their families.

General Manager of Health Professionals Bank, Carolyn Murphy, Melbourne, said there needs to be a change in employers’ perception of nurses’ value, and greater recognition of their contribution to patient care, team sustainability and the healthcare industry more broadly.

‘Nurses are Australia’s unsung heroes and work tirelessly to provide the best quality patient care for our community,’ said Ms Murphy. ‘The nursing profession is highly skilled and ready to tackle Australia’s healthcare challenges, so it’s vital nurses and midwives are enabled to reach their full potential at work.

‘As the backbone of the healthcare industry, nurses represent more than 60 per cent of the healthcare workforce.’

Nurses and midwives represent Australia’s largest, single healthcare profession comprising approximately 400,000 nurses, 27,045 nurse midwives and 5,141 midwives. Yet our nation is facing a potential nursing shortage with the departure and retirement of the existing nursing workforce, poor retention rates and population health trends.

According to Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association (APNA) President, Karen Booth, nurses and midwives utilised to their full potential can promote good health, wellbeing and equitable access to health services for themselves, their colleagues and the broader community.

‘Having primary health care nurses working to their full scope of practice as part of an interdisciplinary team can enable more integrated, efficient and accessible healthcare for all Australians,’ said Ms Booth.

‘Of concern is the fact that there is currently no clear professional pathway for nurses in primary health care, noting 64 per cent of our survey respondents lacked a written professional development plan,

‘Furthermore, 44 per cent of the respondents reported feeling isolated, or lacking the necessary support from their colleagues to optimally perform their roles. This may be further compounded by a reduction in formal career planning and support.

‘While the recent development by APNA of a Career and Education Framework for Nurses in PHC has set the groundwork for better recognition, impactful change is yet to come’, she said.

If you’re a nurse, midwife or healthcare professional wishing to join Health Professionals Bank or to learn more, head to www.hpbank.com.au.

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