One in four nurses consider leaving primary health care

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APNA Workforce Survey reveals urgency to train nursing’s next generation. [Source: Shutterstock]

Australia is on notice that its nursing shortage is set to worsen, with one in four nurses working in primary health care (PHC) considering leaving their role in the next two to five years, according to the latest sector survey.

According to the The Australian Primary Health Care Nurse’s Association’s (APNA) 2022 Workforce Survey, three quarters of nurses reported feeling exhausted, stressed or burnt out at work.

The Survey received 4,000 responses and demonstrated the urgency behind efforts to retain experienced nurses and establish sustainable recruitment and training pipelines to bring through Australia’s next generation of PHC nurses.

According to APNA’s 2022 Workforce Survey: 

  • More than one in four (26.2%) primary health care nurses are considering leaving their current job within the next two-five years
  • Nearly one in ten (9.75%) primary health care nurses are considering leaving their current job within the next twelve months
  • Three quarters (74.2%) of primary health care nurses said they felt exhausted at work
  • Three quarters (74.5%) of primary health care nurses said they felt stressed at work
  • Nearly three quarters (72.1%) of primary health care nurses said they felt burnt out at work
  • Two thirds (66.4%) of primary health care nurses said they had an excessive workload
  • Two-thirds (66.3%) of primary health care nurses said they worked overtime

APNA President Karen Booth said this unrelenting pressure has created a crisis in meeting Australia’s primary health care needs.

“This loss of nursing skills represents a significant lost opportunity for the Australian health system, employers, and patients […] We are not only talking about a loss of workforce investment here, but we are also talking about the loss of corporate knowledge that we would normally expect would train and support the new workforce entrants— that is, renewal of the workforce.”

Ms Booth said if this was happening in big corporate business, there would be an outcry. She also said the reasons for these grim statistics vary from sector to sector.

Aged care nurses feel overwhelmed by constant change and uncertainty over whether they will receive the 15% pay increase ordered by the Fair Work Commission and continued poor staffing levels. Nurses in general practice are poorly utilised, while Nurse Practitioners are restricted from using the additional skills they have learned through their advanced training and experience.    

“Primary health nurses are one of the most affordable and effective ways of keeping patients with chronic health conditions as healthy as they can be, well managed and out of hospital,” Ms Booth said.

These figures also demonstrate the urgency behind efforts to establish sustainable recruitment and training pipelines to bring through Australia’s next generation of primary health care nurses to sustain the workforce.

Ms Booth said that Albanese Government initiatives such as the national Scope of Practice review, 6,000 additional primary health care clinical placements, 1,850 graduate Nurse Practitioner scholarships, Medicare reforms and incentives to get PHC nurses back into the workforce would make a difference to PHC nurse retention.

Ms Booth called on all Governments to build on this progress by accelerating and committing to fund delivery of the Nursing Workforce Strategy. 

She said, “Decision makers in State, Territory, and Federal Governments and health departments can make a real difference to primary health care nurses by ensuring they are highly visible in health policy development and that the collective voice of primary health care nursing continues to be heard in all future reviews.”

To participate in APNA’s 2023 Workforce Survey visit the website here.

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