Employers are battling over nursing staff because Australia’s aging population is sending demand higher, and even final-year students are guaranteed a job.
Experienced nurses could get a job “five times over” and student nurses are guaranteed a position, say employers who are fighting a war for talent across the health industry as Australia’s population ages.
In NSW, where the jobless rate is the lowest in the country, employers are managing to fill only 34 per cent of nursing jobs, the lowest level since federal data has been collected.
“If they’re skilled, they’ll get work straight away [and] as much as they want,” said Michael Kemp, a 30-year veteran of nurse recruitment who runs an agency with his wife Janelle, a former theatre nurse, in Sydney’s Sutherland shire.
“For example, if you’re a scrub nurse [experienced] in operating theatres, if you’re a specialist like that, you can get a job five times over.”
“My business growth is actually limited by my ability to find suitable nurses,” said Access Nursing Agency managing director Stephen O’Donnell.
“I could probably do 30 per cent more business if I could access more experienced nurses, but I can’t.”
Surging demand does not mean higher wages
But the strong demand for experienced nurses is not always translating into higher pay because wages are regulated by enterprise agreements.
“It’s not a free market with nursing,” Mr Kemp said. “There is a small element of [pay] negotiation, but not a great deal.”
A limitation on wages exists for a large portion of the workforce, said Mr Kemp, because they are employed in areas were remuneration is governed by enterprise bargain agreements and award rates, such as public hospitals.
Senior registered nurses with at least eight years experience in Queensland take home the most, $92,63, followed by NSW on $89,800, Victoria $82,256, and $88,050 in South Australia.
NSW Nurses and Midwives Association secretary Brett Holmes said the shortage extended into all areas that employ nurses.
Mr Holmes said aged care providers particularly were struggling to compete for qualified nurses.
La Trobe University associate professor Michelle Newton said nursing graduates had no trouble gaining work. “Nursing is almost a guaranteed job,” Professor Newton said.
“By the end of the [final] year the vast majority of those students have picked up work. La Trobe graduate data shows 96.6 per cent of students are employed, which compares to 95.6 per cent across the sector in Victoria,”
“In Victoria we have a system where nurses in their first year out of university are matched through a centralised system… We certainly know that the majority get placed.”
She said the Victorian health department has forecast shortages for some time mainly due to an ageing population.
“That data shows the nursing and midwifery shortage is real.”
By: Financial Review