The healthcare sector has raised concerns about the dwindling number of tertiary students choosing to study nursing, despite aged care homes in desperate need of nurses and workers.
Clare Grieveson, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of aged care provider Southern Cross Care, told ABC News the lack of prospective nursing students was “incredibly concerning”.
With the Federal Government set to introduce rules that require aged care facilities to have a Registered Nurse on site 24/7, Ms Grieveson voiced concerns about filling all of those shifts.
“At Southern Cross Care, we have 4,000 shifts that we need to fill every single week, and 11% of those have a vacancy next to them,” she said.
“We are short about 12 Registered Nurses at the moment; these are roles that we can’t fill.”
Tom Ristoski, Director of Industry Partnerships at Perth’s Notre Dame University, said nursing degree places have been more difficult to fill recently and the 2022 mid-year intake was slow.
“It is taking longer to fill courses and I think we’re getting fairly close but normally by now they would be completely full and oversubscribed,” Mr Ristoski told ABC Radio Perth’s Nadia Mitsopoulos.
Mr Ristoski suggested the decline in demand could be because of the heavily-publicised pressures on the healthcare sector, particularly as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He explained that the university was trying to adapt training to make it easier for students to complete a nursing degree, implementing programs for second year students to work in a setting and get paid for that as Assistants In Nursing (AINs) while they learn on-the-job skills.
“We’ve got accelerated programs now for people who have allied skills, and we can quickly get them into nursing,” Mr Ristoski said.
“They may not need to do the full degree.”
A new National Disability Services (NDS) report has also revealed alarming shortages and increasing staff turnover rates of allied health workers across the country, causing lengthy wait times for older people accessing these services.
The report showed the permanent employment rate for allied health workers dropped from 83% to 78% over seven years.
The report also found the casual turnover rate for allied health workers increased from 13% to 20%.
Allied health worker hours declined from 26.6 hours to 18.2 hours, a decrease of a huge 8.4 hours.
The NDS pointed to the long-term national neglect of allied health workforce needs, which has been an ongoing issue in aged care.
The Aged Care Royal Commission found that allied health care in the sector was insufficient and should be a stronger component of care for aged care recipients.
Over the last few years, many aged care recipients have struggled to find allied health services available to them.