ABC news reports reports on the real problems faced by new graduate nurses looking for work in Tasmania:

More than 300 nurses are expected to graduate from the University of Tasmania in the coming months and only 115 have been offered jobs locally.

The Australian Nursing Federation’s Neroli Ellis says those who have missed out are devastated and some will have to access Centrelink or move interstate.

“It’s a whole generation of nurses that we’ve lost,” she said.

Whitney Bowerman is one graduate without a job, despite achieving high distinctions.

“We’re just all sort of lost and in shock the moment because we’re all in the middle of exams getting this disturbing information,” she said.

The federation says 179 graduate jobs have been offered in the past and the State Government should be boosting numbers to ease a predicted nurse shortage.

Health Minister Michelle O’Byrne says this year’s graduate nurse intake exceeds last year’s and there are other options for graduates, including private hospitals and aged care homes.

Niall, one of the lucky Tasmanian nurses to secure employment commented on my Facebook page today:
It’s a very bittersweet experience, being one of the 115 and knowing how many friends and fellow students aren’t as fortunate. Minister O’Byrne’s comments aren’t entirely inaccurate, but the aged care sector and private employers will probably only take another 50 or so across the state over the coming months. And that’s not counting the number of students who graduated mid-year and have already left Tassie and eased some of the pressure as a result.

What appears to be completely ridiculous (at first glance at least) is that a small number of the offered grad positions have gone to interstate applicants, when Tasmanian students were explicitly excluded from intakes in other states such as SA, or automatically placed at the bottom of the pile in Victoria during their recent application processes. There either needs to be equality or protectionism across the country I think, rather than a patchwork of both.

And this is a real issue faced by nurses on mainland Australia too.
Some comments I have received from nurses today:

  • Jessica: In Vic this year, there were 1100 people miss out on grad year positions through the computermatch system (which all public hospitals are legislated to use, and which most private also do), and only 70 positions left over for them to fight for…
  • Katrina: Yep lots of applicants missed out in NSW myself being one. You would think that the state govts would do something about it particularly as they made over 500 extra positions available for last years applicants. Plus with the position in Qld and Tas with nursing cutbacks there have been 3x the applicants this year. Nursing home jobs are not acceptable for nurses wanting to work in acute care once in aged care it’s almost impossible to get an acute care job you don’t have the skills required.
  • Tim: It may not be as bad here in the U.S.; but it is definitely tougher than it was a few years ago. I graduated in June 2004. Most of my class had jobs lined up by February to April of 2004. I know two RN’s that graduated in 2012 1 settled for a job that she didn’t want and the other is still looking. Both here in King County WA i.e. the Seattle area.
  • Kathy: When I had my interview for a NSW position I was told there were 2 applications to every position available.

One nurse from my own hospital contacted me today saying that out of around 200 applications only 80 postgraduate positions were available. This is interesting, as our hospital is undergoing major redevelopment and there are plans to build another hospital to service the territory in next few years. They are going to be very thirsty for experienced nurses then.

Australian doctors are experiencing their own crisis with 182 newly graduated doctors (from a total of 3326) unable to secure internships this year.
They are currently undertaking a well organised and rapidly growing social media campaign and series of protest actions to raise public awareness of their issues:
[ Hashtag: #interncrisis. Website: http://interncrisis.org/

It is indeed a crazy situation. The public hospital system struggles to manage with its workloads. It needs more bed capacity and more quality healthcare professionals to tend them.
Are there any other new-graduate nurses who would like to comment on their own experiences?

11 Responses to “The Australian newgraduate nursing crisis?”

  1. I’m one of the unlucky ones who are still in suspense, waiting to hear whether my future will be safe with a secure job and incoming finances that allow me to buy a house – (another fear is that I can’t get into the property market at 23 year of age, and may never be able to afford a house).

    I guess in some ways I’m lucky. I discussed application options with my boyfriend. As he is in a family business and is unable to move away from our hometown, I decided that staying put was also the best option for me and us, and my family. I wouldn’t have minded applying out of Tassie and seeing what places would take me. But when I think realistically, I don’t have the finances or a burning desire to leave my town of Burnie. I love Tasmania, especially the North-West Coast. With heaps of my friends applying for, accepting and now moving out of the state to begin their careers in graduate nursing positions, I thought that my chances would be somewhat higher than applying somewhere like Melbourne or the RPA.

    I’m not sure whether I have been looked over because of my pass/credit grade averages, or whether I just don’t appear to be a suitable candidate for certain facilities or wards. I know that there are second and third round offers to come, but I wouldn’t want to be offered a job out of spite or obligation. It would be nice to be hired based on me as a person, the attributes I could introduce, and the lessons and skills that I would happily learn.

    Even while I have been looking at post-graduate study options, I’m disheartened to see that many of the requirements state that you have to be for example, a level 3 nurse or have been working for ‘x’amount of years. I figure that it would be good to get in post-graduate studies in the hope of getting a job out of it, if i’m not offered a second or third round position.

    I congratulate everyone who was offered a position, and just wish those who weren’t lucky enough, all the luck in the world that they can get a job that suits them.

  2. Similar situation in Queensland – 9000+ applicants to the Queensland Health Graduate Program(s) – available positions in the low hundreds. Further, many Nurse Educator positions have been deemed ‘non-frontline’ and therefore surplus to requirements – the smart state?

  3. We have similar issues here in the Midwest US. When I graduated with my RN in Dec 2010, I had a hard time finding a position because I was (on paper) a “new grad” and everyone was looking for experience. For whatever reason, my 10+ years as an LPN, with the most recent 5 in similar units to the ones I was applying for, did not count. All anyone saw was when I got my RN. I know many of my classmates had similar hard times finding jobs.

    Another issue for us was that we had just finished an Associate’s Degree program (2 year) and many hospitals in our area are now giving preference to Bachelor’s Degree trained RN’s. There are at least 3 hospitals in our metro that will ONLY hire BSN’s now, a fairly new development. Wish I’d known that when looking to move up from LPN.

    Good luck to all of you new nurses. Keep your foot in the field somewhere, even if it isn’t your first choice. I won’t go back to working in nursing homes if I can possibly help it, but those years have given me experience that I’m glad to have.

  4. I am graduating at the end of this year, and am very lucky to have a job for next year. Other people in SA are not. SA health is accepting around 480 positions (that is all public hospitals metro and country), with them obtaining around 1000 applicaticants for it. The way that they work out who gets a job is very odd, with no interviews, just taking out GPAs, 2 clinical placement reports, and info from 2 referees. there was an online application, with no resume or coverletter needed. The private hospital that i obtained a position at, said that they were interviewing the top 15% of applicants, which was 200 people, for around 30 jobs. Also in SA there is not enough jobs for grads. And also there is a problem getting jobs after you finish your grad year – you go into contracts or go into the casual pool. Yet the government is leaning on the unis to take more students, so everyone is getting less clinical placement, and may be placed in inappopriate areas with numerous other students, because of a so called ‘nursing shortage’. If they want us to be able to work in a few years time when people are retiring, you need to train us up NOW, and give us jobs after the grad program, because it is no use having nurses take up senior positions with only 1 year of practice….

  5. I am one of those nurses who will be seeking a nursing graduate program position in either 2013 or 2014. My situation is that I will complete all the theory aspects of the Bachelor of Nursing by the end of November but will attend my final 8 week clinical placement component which will end in February 2013. From that aspect my AHPRA registration should arrive by late February or early March 2013.

    Ever since I entered nursing back in April 2002 as an Assistant in Nurse (AIN) I was constantly reminded of the critical shortages of doctors and nurses affecting the Australian health sector. As a nursing student I have even related this issue in various essays I have submitted throughout my nursing degree. The first nursing journals I read back in 2002 all stated there were future issues Australia will have to face regarding the shortages of nurses around Australia. From memory I think part of the shortages of nurses back in 2002 was that many qualified nurses had left the nursing profession due to burn out and stress factors.

    Karen Davis journalist from The Age newspaper wrote an article on October 22nd 2012 called “Australia faces major nurse shortage” which relates to a research project released by the Australian Health Workforce Institute (AHWI).

    Extract from The AGE

    “Australian Nursing Federation (ANF) said the report provided further evidence of the inadequacies of national nursing workforce planning. ANF national secretary Ged Kearney said nurses were being driven out of the workforce by excessive workloads, inadequate staffing and a failure to properly remunerate and value their role. “Up until now we have seen a piecemeal approach in addressing the nursing and health workforce shortages,” he said. “What we need now is action from all governments to ensure that the nursing and midwifery workforce is better supported so nurses continue to enter the profession and stay there.” (ref: http://news.theage.com.au/national/australia-faces-major-nurse-shortage-20081022-569d.html

    Note: I should point out that Ged Kearney is not a “he” but a “she” when reading the extract from The Age newspaper.

    When reading through the actual Annual Report 2011-2012 by Health Workforce Australia found at http://www.hwa.gov.au/ it does mention on page 21 that…

    Extract

    “With growing numbers of nursing and midwifery graduates, gaining an entry level job in health is becoming more competitive. In 2011, there were more new graduate nurses and midwives than suitable graduate positions available in public hospitals. Retaining the skills of these Australian-trained graduates in the wider health system is vital to meet projected nursing workforce shortages in the medium and longer term. Many less visible employment opportunities exist across the wider health services, including in private, aged care and community sectors. To respond to this issue, HWA established an internet-based information portal exclusively for new graduates to promote vacancies for Australian-trained graduate nurses and midwives. Following a positive post- implementation review, HWA will continue the information portal to assist the 2012 graduates find their first position in the health workforce. There are 1244 graduates registered. The portal is at http://www.nmgj.org.au

    The key message here is that in 2011 there were more nurses available than suitable graduate positions available in public hospitals.

    For now I will explore the portal at http://www.nmgj.org.au and see what that offers new grads.

    The sensitive issue here is that if funding is reduced it will in time add workload stresses onto nurses who will possibly leave their profession again causing more havoc in our current health system. It seems like a merry-go-round approach to me.

    All the best,
    Peter.

  6. I was lucky and had a few offers but I’ve worked hard for them. I would recommend getting feedback from employers who say no to see if there is something that could have been changed in your application. It’s a tough economic climate at the moment and people need to get as much information as possible to better prepare them for future applications. I was turned down for 4 jobs post interview and I got feedback as to why which I implemented in subsequent interviews and applications.

  7. I am one of the lucky international medicine graduates to have been offered an intern placement for next year. It is indeed bittersweet as I watch friends who, like me, are now a quarter-million in debt and and panicking as they have no job to go to. I was recruited from Canada under the understanding that an intern place was not guaranteed, but no one had ever been refused a job. So sad that medicine isn’t the only victim of poor health planning. It scares me silly that I will be working with a shortage of nursing colleagues, and yet so many have been shut out. The world has gone mad.

  8. I applied and was lucky enough to secure a new grad position in NSW Health. My strategy was to apply somewhere with a better ratio than 2-1, so I phoned several places and asked the question-how many jobs last year and how many applicants. Also I was willing to move a long way from home to get the experience I needed.
    I found the interview process to be nervewracking and if you are the type of person that finds it difficult to do well in an interview due to nerves then you are not going to secure a job. I find it incredible that NSW Health do not ask for your academic transcript and base their job offers on interview and referee reports. There were students from my year who didnt get offered a position due to stuffing up in the interview. There has to be a better way of choosing who you employ. NT Health has an exam where there are 6 different scenarios and you have to write what you would do in the situation, they also ask for academic transcipt and all your practicum reports. Maybe this is a better way to go. Good luck to all those nurses out there who are still looking for a position.

  9. This happened 20 years ago when I was studying and graduating. We were at orientation(in first year) to the teaching hospital for our area and the educator stood up and said to all 150 of us, “Why are you studying to be nurses?? There are no jobs and aren’t likely to be.”
    Very heartening to hear as you are about to invest 3 years of your life. The jobs were a little lean in the time I was studying and most particularly for the class in the year ahead of me. By the time I graduated there were more jobs than nurses, not necessarily in a graduate programme, but hunger and debt can be an interesting driver when you are looking for work.
    Good luck to graduating nurses out there- be willing to work, and work hard, and don’t be afraid to move to secure work….

  10. There are new grad positions available but many people are unwilling to move away – I would move if it secured me a job to give me the training I wanted! At the private hospital I work in for next year we had only one person interested in OT – unfortunately they did not interview well at all. I am a New Grad this year in OT and could not wait to start work in my area.

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