College of Nursing wants action on surge workforce

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The Australian College of Nursing (ACN) has issued a new position statement with recommendations on how governments should leverage surge workforces during the pandemic and other crises.

The organisation said the new statement is in response to the "incredible pressure on the nursing profession" during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It has recommended the optimisation of the distribution of the nursing workforce across Australia in times of crisis and to ease the immediate burden on the public health care system.

It says a surge workforce can relieve pressure on a highly stretched healthcare system but only if it is done correctly. 

Several state and territory governments have proposed surge workforce authorisations that allow nursing, midwifery, medical and pharmacy students, other allied health professionals and laboratory technicians, to provide support in key areas of the pandemic response, including the administration of vaccines.

ACN CEO Kylie Ward said a large proportion of the nursing community who are overworked and at risk of burnout have been left out of the COVID-19 response plan.

“Nursing is an incredibly diverse field with multiple specialisations, who are all highly trained and skilled to provide care and support in the current climate," she said.

“A key example of nurses being overlooked in the vaccination rollout are nurse practitioners who work in rural and remote areas, who are often the sole healthcare provider in the community. They’ve been largely excluded in the rollout efforts despite having the skills to administer vaccinations.  

“So many nurses who have retired or taken a break from the industry want to join the fight and provide support. However, they’ve been overlooked in the efforts to address nursing shortages.”

ACN has also recommended that consideration should be given to alternative models of care and service delivery, state and territory governments should actively recruit and optimise all nurses in surge workforces, any task that does not require nursing expertise should be immediately reallocated and only regulated health professionals should be authorised to administer COVID-19 vaccinations and undertake testing.

Later today, ACN will host a webinar on the ‘The Pending National Nursing Workforce Crisis’ that will discuss its surge workforce position statement and the future of nursing.