Nurses say they are under-utilised and should be doing more

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One-in-four Australian primary health care nurses say they are under-utilised and could be doing more with their skillset for patients, according to a newly published nursing workforce report.

Over 2,000 primary health care nurses responded to the 'APNA/Health Professionals Bank Workforce Survey'. Nearly 50 per cent of respondents said they suggested they could undertake more complex clinical activities for their employer. Yet less than half were permitted to do so.

The findings have been released to coincide with the launch of Health Professionals Bank. It is Australia's first and only bank dedicated exclusively to nurses, midwives, healthcare professionals and their families.

According to Karen Booth, president of the Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association (APNA), nurses and midwives utilised to their potential can promote good health, wellbeing and equitable access to health services.

“Given the pivotal role played by nurses and midwives in protecting public health, today’s launch of a bank dedicated to healthcare professionals will help to meet the needs of this crucial workforce," said Ms Booth.

“Having primary health care nurses working to their full scope of practice as part of an interdisciplinary team can enable more integrated, efficient and accessible healthcare for all Australians.”

There are over 400,000 nurses, nurse midwives and midwives in Australia. Yet the country is facing a potential nursing shortage with the departure and retirement of the existing workforce, poor retention rates and population health trends.

“Nurses are Australia’s unsung heroes and work tirelessly to provide the best quality patient care for our community. The nursing profession is highly skilled and ready to tackle Australia’s healthcare challenges, so it’s vital nurses and midwives are enabled to reach their full potential at work,” said the general manager of the Health Professionals Bank, Carolyn Murphy.

“As the backbone of the healthcare industry, nurses represent more than 60 per cent of the healthcare workforce. A strong nursing workforce will help to ensure high quality, accessible and affordable primary health care provision for all members of our community.

“As the nation’s most trusted profession, with one of the highest levels of personal fulfilment,5 nurses deserve to have these values reflected in the professional services they use. Which is why it’s about time they had their own bank dedicated to their needs,” said Ms Murphy.

Ms Booth continued, “Concerningly, there is currently no clear professional pathway for nurses in primary health care, noting 64 per cent of our survey respondents lacked a written professional development plan.

“Furthermore, 44 per cent of the respondents reported feeling isolated, or lacking the necessary support from their colleagues to optimally perform their roles. This may be further compounded by a reduction in formal career planning and support."

The Health Professionals Bank has been set-up to meet the specific needs of this health workforce, such as their penalty rates and public service salary packaging arrangements.

“We understand the unique needs of the health professionals we serve. For instance, Health Professionals Bank recognises the difference between nurses working in primary health care, often private small businesses, and those in the public sector in hospitals, who can access separate tax incentives. Flexible banking options to accommodate shift work are essential, so we have a range of technologies and services to cater for that," said Ms Murphy.