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Demand for nursing graduates hits new record

Demand for qualified nurses is hitting record highs across south-west Victoria, with shortfalls hitting particularly hard in aged care.
Western District Health Service graduate nurse Joanne Barber with the health provider's director of aged and home care services (Hamilton) Katherine Armstrong.

With South West TAFE’s Diploma of Nursing again being offered as a Free TAFE course in 2023, regional health services say capable graduates are virtually guaranteed a job as enrolled nurses (ENs).

The next South West TAFE intake for Diploma of Nursing students is mid-2023 and both Hamilton and Warrnambool campuses will hold information sessions in the coming weeks, along with Zoom sessions.

Western District Health Service (WDHS) Director of Aged Care Services at Hamilton, Katherine Armstrong, said there was a nationwide shortage of enrolled nurses, particularly in aged care.

“It has been a problem for a few years but it is magnified now,” Ms Armstrong said. “There are shortages across the whole industry all across the country, it’s not just local. There is an abundance of positions for applicants who are looking to work in all domains of nursing.”

WDHS has eight full-time vacancies for enrolled nurses to work in aged care in Hamilton and four aged care places in Coleraine and Penshurst.

There are also opportunities for enrolled and registered nurses in acute services.

WDHS has a graduate program and on-site training facility that allows enrolled nurses to study to gain their registered nurse qualification.

“We’ve had a lot of success with TAFE graduates, particularly local students who tend to want to stay here,” Ms Armstrong said. “We have a model of growing our own workforce from healthcare worker level to enrolled and registered nurses. Enrolled nursing is an enjoyable and challenging career and there are so many pathways you can follow these days to match your interests. I’ve been here 30 years, and WDHS helps to grow your career pathway if you want to take the opportunities that are there.”

WDHS graduate nurse, Joanne Barber, who lives at Glen Isla, between Hamilton and Horsham, says she finds the hours and days are flexible for a mother with a small family, living out of town.

“It’s really convenient and the staff have been very supportive,” she said. “I love the work in aged care, I was a personal care worker at WDHS before starting my grad year here and it has worked out really well for me.”

Portland District Health (PDH) Executive Director of Nursing, Midwifery and Aged Care, Ros Nagorcka, said there were plenty of nursing jobs in the region and further afield.

“There are great career opportunities in nursing,” Ms Nagorcka said. “Endorsed enrolled nurses are an integral part of our service, working in aged care, sub-acute, acute and theatre and we are constantly on the lookout for more staff.”

Ms Nagorcka said the TAFE Diploma of Nursing provided a great grounding for a rewarding career in healthcare. “Once you have become an enrolled nurse, you can go on to become a registered nurse and the opportunities are endless.”

South West Healthcare Executive Director Nursing, Gaynor Stevenson, said nursing and healthcare as an industry were well and truly in the public spotlight due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The industry has gone through an enormous amount of change in a relatively short-time which has created a number of new and interesting career paths and opportunities for people to explore,” Ms Stevenson said.

“If you are looking for meaningful work that is connected to people and our community, is varied from day-to-day and provides flexible working hours, nursing is an excellent option.”

People and Culture Executive Sheron Cook said South West Healthcare was about to embark upon an exciting phase of development and growth with more than $400 million worth of redevelopment projects underway.

“This means there will be a steady supply of local jobs and opportunities for career progression in the years to come for ENs and RNs,” Ms Cook said. “Students will have increased access to state-of-the-art training opportunities and graduate work experience that is on-par with many larger health services, right here in the south-west.

“Demand for nursing graduates in healthcare and aged care continues to grow, and at South West Healthcare we will continue to offer opportunities to support working enrolled nurses to continue their education if they wish to become a registered nurse. Both ENs and RNs play a vital role in providing a balanced and diverse workforce and excellent care to our community.”

As a Free TAFE course, students can save up to 10,000 by enrolling in the Diploma of Nursing.

Information sessions will be held at Hamilton on Tuesday April 18 or Tuesday May 9 at 12.30pm and 5.30pm and at the Warrnambool campus on Wednesday April 19 or Wednesday May 10 at 12.30pm and 5.30pm. Zoom sessions will be held on Thursday April 20 and Thursday May 11, also at 12.30pm and 5.30pm.

To take the first step in applying for a mid-year place, click here register to attend an upcoming information session.