Are Australian nursing roles in good health?

Are we heading toward a talent shortage in the nursing sector? We explore SEEK Employment Trends data and determine whether nursing roles are still in good health.

As reported by the ABS, the Healthcare & Medical and Social Assistance sector is Australia's largest employer, currently accounting for 13% of the total Australian workforce. SEEK data reflects this growth with Healthcare & Medical job ads recording 12% year-on-year growth in August 2018 compared to 2017.

Nursing roles, which comprise 22% of the Healthcare & Medical labour market, have been the biggest contributor to this sector’s growth in recent months.

The aged care sector is driving the growth in nursing roles, with particularly high growth in Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia – states, which are recognised for having an aging population greater than the national average.

Nursing pipeline remains strong

With the increased demand for healthcare services because of Australia's growing and aging population, the Department of Health suggests Australia is approaching a ‘nursing shortage’ crisis of about 85,000 nurses by 2025, growing to 123,000 nurses by 2030.

However, SEEK data shows national nursing candidate availability has experienced steady growth in the last 12 months, outstripping national demand. This points to a greater supply of candidates in the market vying for positions and meaning it is getting easier to find nursing staff this year across the country.

Concern regarding the shortage of nurses also appears to be in contrast with the current nursing education environment. Domestic student enrolment in nursing courses has been strong, with an average yearly increase of 6% between 2010 and 2016, according to the Australian Department of Education and Training. This figure has increased to become on par with students enrolling in traditionally high-demand courses, such as ICT.

Dr Cathy Dickson, Program Director of Nursing and Health Science at Western Sydney University Online, said, “We are experiencing high demand for our online nursing course, reflecting the increase in domestic enrolments nationally. Many of our students are juggling busy family lives with part-time work. By providing access to flexible, high-quality education online we are enabling more people to realise their ambition of joining the nursing profession and helping to address the nursing shortage.”

Nursing nomads

SEEK data reveals that nationally, one in ten of nurses currently looking for work are willing to relocate to another state for work. This trend is led by Northern Territory where 41% of nurses currently looking for job opportunities are looking interstate. Further, all nursing candidates nationally overwhelmingly favour the smaller states when looking interstate for roles, with candidates in New South Wales and Victoria more likely to move to Australian Capital Territory, Tasmania and Northern Territory.

While the Healthcare powerhouses of Victoria and New South Wales hold the larger share of jobs in the sector, some of the smaller states are seeing impressive growth across several specialised nursing roles, contributing to this trend of nursing candidates moving interstate.

Due to this trend, the smaller states of the ACT, Tasmania and Northern Territory are all recording higher net gains in nursing candidate applications than their larger counterparts. The larger states of New South Wales and Western Australia are suffering the largest net losses.

Kendra Banks, Managing Director of SEEK, ANZ says, “We know that workers in the Healthcare & Medical sector place high importance on opportunities for career development when looking for a new role. Our nurses are looking for new experiences and opportunities for professional development, and to use a wide variety of different skills. Smaller states give health care professionals the chance to work with specific populations, such as indigenous communities in Northern Territory or the ageing population in Tasmania.”

Related content: Double digit growth for Australia’s largest employers

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