Great Lakes Advocate

Meeting the demand for nurses: Tackling placement poverty

Photo by Shutterstock.
Photo by Shutterstock.

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How do we encourage people to pursue a profession that could potentially put them in poverty while qualifying?

While amidst a huge shortage of nursing staff, the Australian government has listened to the needs of the people in a bold attempt to meet the demands for more nurses in the healthcare industry.

How do they plan on doing this?

As of early May, it was announced that Australian students pursuing a career in nursing, teaching, social work or midwifery who are required to do mandatory placements are eligible to receive a Commonwealth Prac Payment (CPP) of $319.50 per week.

The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, said, "We're proud to be backing the hard work and aspiration of Australians looking to better themselves by studying at university."

In this article, we'll examine why there is such a high demand for nurses in Australia and what the government is doing to meet that demand.

Why is a clinical placement necessary?

All students working towards obtaining their nursing degree are required to complete a clinical placement, which includes 800 hours of volunteering.

Nursing placements give students the opportunity to put theory into practice and apply knowledge and skills learned in the classroom to a clinical setting.

Your placement in a clinical setting is vital in helping you get practical experience. Nurses apply their knowledge in a clinical training environment, and they undergo hands-on learning.

This helps nurses gain new skills and improve their understanding of different areas.

How will the Commonwealth Prac Payment help meet the demand for nurses?

Previously unpaid work experience has been a rite of passage for nursing students to paid employment. The experience does help to increase skills and knowledge, as well as affirm a student's identity in the profession.

However, the long and intensive hours of unpaid placements have caused financial stress on nursing students. Even the most tenacious students experience negative impacts on their overall well-being.

When students are expected to commit to such long hours while still finding a way to manage paid work, study obligations, and their social life, it can push nurses to the edge and is a major deterrent to continuing with their studies.

Education minister, Jason Clare, has commented on the benefit of the Commonwealth Prac Payment, saying, "This will give people who have signed up to do some of the most important jobs in this country a bit of extra help to get the qualifications they need.

Placement poverty is a real thing. I have met students who told me they can afford to go to uni, but they can't afford to do the prac."

With the Commonwealth Prac Payment, that financial burden is relieved, and students can commit their time to their placement without the stress of finding or maintaining a paying job to support them throughout placement and make it easier for them to complete their studies.

What is the current demand for nurses in Australia?

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), by 2030, there will be an estimated global shortfall of 10 million healthcare workers.

Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) have shown that nurses make up almost 55 per cent of the nation's healthcare profession.

Even with 460,758 registered nurses (including nurses and midwives) in 2023, Australia continues to experience a nursing shortage, especially in regional or remote areas and aged care.

How to benefit from this demand?

It's predicted that over the next three years, nursing will experience strong growth, with registered nursing employment expected to grow by 13.9 per cent.

For current and future nurses, there are many ways to benefit from the increased demand by ensuring they have future-proofed their skills.

But what does the future hold for nurses, and how can you best take advantage of the latest industry growth areas to drive your career forward?

Further your studies

With the demand and increase for nurses comes better job prospects in the healthcare industry.

Specialised nurses, like those who have completed their postgraduate certificate in nursing, will be in a strong position to secure career advancements and higher salaries.

Nurses who hold postgraduate qualifications are generally eligible for more diverse roles in the healthcare industry.

There is a notable demand for:

  • Nurse educators
  • Nurse researchers
  • Nurse managers
  • Midwives

Final thoughts

The announcement and implementation of the Commonwealth Prac Payment have allowed nursing students to breathe a sigh of relief.

They now have one less thing to worry about, and they can devote their time to completing their placements without the financial stressors.

This is a step in the right direction to help Australia meet the need for more nurses.