By Austra Health

Feb 27, 2018

Why is there a shortage of nurses in Australia?

Based on 2015 statistics from the Australia Institute of Health and Welfare, there were 307,000 nurses and midwives employed across the country. However, over the last three years in particular, Australia's population has boomed – passing the 24 million mark in February 2016 – putting the country's healthcare system under more stress than ever.

In fact, this was predicted with the government's 2014 Australia's Future Health Workforce report noting the need for another 123,000 nurses by 2030. 

So, what's slowing down our healthcare sector and how can employers have access to the best nursing talent possible? 

Decline of working visas for nurses

One of the main reasons for the shortage in nurses, as revealed by SBS, is the lower number of professionals entering Australia on a work visas. The visa was designed for employers to sponsor temporary skilled overseas employees.

There were 1,879 registered nurses on 457 visas in Australia as of September 2017 (now changed to the TSS 482 with differing conditions) – the lowest figure since records started back in 2009. This is a trend that is now common across Australia due to the fact that many states and territories are looking to upskill local talent with an eye to the future.

Assistant federal secretary of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation Annie Butler explained this concept in more detail.

"In about 10 years a whole lot of our nurses and midwives are set to retire, so we need to be prepared to fill those gaps."

"Our average age of our nurses and midwives at the moment is actually around 47," Ms Butler told SBS. "In about 10 years a whole lot of our nurses and midwives are set to retire, so we need to be prepared to fill those gaps."

How to solve short term employment struggles

In a recent ABC article, it was reported that NSW alone will need another 2,000 full-time enrolled nurses this year to keep up with patient demand. At the moment, the state is short of this talent.

"Because of the issue with the aging workforce and the aging demographic, there will be a point where nursing is at a critical shortage," Hammond Care Executive Manager Stewart James explained.

The answer to the nursing shortage isn't exactly easy. As it could take a few years for local talent to ramp up, it might be worth employers considering the merits of 457 visas. Whichever way is best, recruiting the right nurses is always critical – an area where we can help.

For more information on the services we provide in the healthcare space, check out the Austra Health website here.

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