Universities Australia (UA) is the peak national body representing Australia’s 39 comprehensive universities. Australian universities play a critical role in nursing and other health workforce formation. They educate and train virtually all of Australia’s new-entry domestic health professional workforce1. Without universities, there would be a significant shortfall – greater than there already is – of these vital professionals.
This submission focuses on nurses educated and trained in universities2. This is predominantly, but not exclusively, Registered Nurses (RNs) with a Bachelor of Nursing (BoN) degree and Nurse Practitioners (NPs) with Master level qualifications.
• Thirty-three member universities (85 percent) currently deliver BoNs leading to initial registration as an RN.
• Thirteen member universities (33 percent) offer Master level qualifications leading to endorsement and registration as NPs; and
• eight member universities offer Diplomas of Nursing leading to Enrolled Nurses (EN) registration.
Many universities also provide a range of approved education courses to support domestic and international nurses upskill, reskill and/or re-enter the workforce. In addition, universities make significant contributions to nursing/health-related research and in supervising nurses to undertake Doctoral studies3.
A growing number of universities (eleven currently) also offer Master level entry-to-practice courses leading to registration as an RN. This reflects a growing trend for students already holding other qualifications to take up nursing as a second career.
UA’s response is from a whole of university sector perspective. Key points and recommendations are provided below. Responses to selected consultation paper questions are also provided where relevant to nurse education/research across the sector. For responses specific to nursing education per se, please refer to the Council of Deans of Nursing and Midwifery’s (CDNM’s) submission.
Key points and recommendations
- Work with relevant stakeholders to grow quality, diverse placement capacity for nursing students – and/or acceptable alternatives – in health, aged care and disability services. This is an urgent priority if we are to meet Australia’s increased nurse education/training and workforce needs across the health, aged care and disability sector.
- Build on/expand effective existing models regarding rural workforce, cultural safety and inclusion/diversity support. Models such as the Rural Health Multidisciplinary Training (RHMT) Program; the National Rural Health Student Network; and UA’s Indigenous Strategy already exist and are helping to address these areas. Building on these already effective approaches will bring further gains.
- Implement recommendations in UA’s submission to the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Workforce Strategy4 regarding supporting university-Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service (ACCHS) partnerships to build culturally appropriate clinical education/placement capacity.
- Consider expanding the John Flynn Placement Program (JFPP) to nursing and other health discipline students – with a particular focus for nursing on small rural towns. Through the original JFPP, medical students developed relationships with rural communities over their degree life-time and were more likely to return to work in those communities post-registration. Offering similar opportunities to nursing/other health students is likely to bring similar gains.
- Consider developing a “Health Housing” scheme, similar to Defence Housing to ensure accommodation for health students and workforce across Australia, especially in rural areas.
- Establish a student bursary for rurally-based nursing students that need to undertake metropolitan placements to complete their study.
- Expand PhD scholarships for nursing students: Dedicate a proportion of the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) and/or National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) funds to nursing-related and nurse-led research fields. This could include specific clinical research and/or relevant health services/workforce research.
- Develop a well-articulated clinical academic pathway for nursing and publicly promote nurse academics and researchers where possible. COVID offered many opportunities for nurse academics to use their clinical and research knowledge to convey important messages to the public. These examples could be built on in other relevant areas both to promote nurse researchers and nursing as a career more generally. Universities Australia would be pleased to discuss ways we could assist with this.