I think with an opening headline like that I’ve already stirred a little controversy. There is a very prevalent school of thought, especially amongst the older metropolitan based nursing fraternity, that overseas nurses are one of the many reasons that our New Grads and even established nurses are finding it hard to secure employment.
At the risk of being the devils advocate, on one hand that is true, to an extent. However, there is a whole other side to that scenario that must be explored.
I will preface this, before I delve any deeper into the topic, that the thoughts I present here are my own, born out of my experience first hand as both a recruiter, then as a manager of an agency solely dedicated to nursing placements.
Our current demand for specialist nursing staff is far outweighing our supply at present. We have hospitals across Australia crying out for dual registered Midwives, Cath Lab Staff, CNM’s, Anaesthetic Staff and so many more. We ideally would love to place Australian nurses into these positions, and if we could we would, but the fact of the matter is we simply don’t have the nurses available to meet demand so we take the next step and asses our overseas nursing pool.
There are literally thousands of qualified nursing personal who hold the right qualifications and experiences needed to fill these specialist positions. In most cases they have minimum of 5 to 8 years dedicated experience in targeted area’s designed to hone their skills. In fact, many of the overseas health systems are on par or if not better than the Australian Healthcare system and these nurses bring with them a wealth of experience that our New Grads simply do not have.
In saying that, I do believe there is much more our government could be doing to offer incentives to hospitals to train our New Grads in these specialist area’s and encourage more ward based training during the nursing degree to help provide the hands on experience that lectures simply do not offer.
I have always wondered how it was that hospitals could run a New Grad program or even a Clinical Placement Program and not consider how they could best utilise those students in their future workforce planning! That is a whole pool of people who have undergone induction, become familiar with hospital protocol and are assimilated in the hospital culture. I have had instances of placing a nurse into a full time position at a hospital where they have just finished their clinical placement!
However, I digress. Our overseas nurses are fast becoming an integral part of our healthcare system, especially in our regional and rural area which struggle to find permanent full time staff at the best of times. Quite often, these hospitals have to rely on agency personnel flown in from the capital cities for short term contracts.
The problem I believe is that our Australian nurses are more culturally aware and as such don’t want to live in the out of the way places such as Kalgoorlie or Mt Isa on a permanent basis. Agency nurses certainly jump at the opportunity as there is fantastic money to be made in Remote and Rural Agency Nursing. Our overseas nurses grab at any opportunity to settle down and put down roots in these area’s grateful to have the chance to be able to live and work in Australia and enjoy all we have to offer.
And whilst it may not seem so, you will be grateful to these nurses who are fast becoming the backbone of many of our smaller regional hospitals, nurses who now keep the Cath Lab open so when your Great Aunty Mildred needs a cardiac procedure she doesn’t have to be medivaced to the nearest cardiac hospital, she can instead have the procedure at her home base and recover in the company of family and friends.
So while I am as patriotic as the next and fully support our Australian nurses and new grads, I also see a space where overseas nurses are filling a demand and helping keep our high standard of healthcare alive and kicking and available to all across Australia.