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  • ACN calls for school-focused campaign to educate and retain nurses.

    Author: Nicole Madigan

A campaign to promote the image of nursing is required if Australia is to keep up with the needs of its growing and ageing population, according to the Australian College of Nursing.

The ACN has called on the government to fund a campaign which would promote a positive image of a lifelong career in nursing.

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Such a campaign should be a core component nursing as a core component of major reforms needed to build a multidisciplinary health workforce skilled to meet the complex needs of the population.

As part of its 2024-25 Pre-Budget Submission, ACN CEO, Adjunct Professor Kylie Ward FACN, said a highly skilled nursing workforce and nurse-led care must be at the forefront of health policy now and in the coming decades.

“As we mark the 40th anniversary of Medicare, governments must be more clever and more strategic with health budgets and health spending, especially with building the right health workforce to meet the needs of communities with increasingly complex and chronic health conditions,” she said.

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“Australia, like the rest of the world, is experiencing a health workforce crisis.”

Most shortages are in the medical industry, particularly general practitioners.

“This is having a major impact on access and affordability of quality health care for many Australians.”

Rural, regional and remote communities are most impacted by the shortages, as well as isolated First Nations communities.

“The solution is to make better use of all the health professions to provide people with the right care in the right place at the right time, throughout all stages of life.

“Nursing is the largest and most geographically dispersed health profession in Australia, with nurses on the front line of health care in communities across the nation.”

In man communities, nurses are the most qualified health professionals available. In some cases, they’re the only health professional. They’re highly regarded and trusted members of the community.

“There are more than 450,000 nurses and midwives providing care in Australia,” , Adjunct Professor Ward said.

“Plus, it is estimated that there are more than 75,000 qualified nurses who are presently not working as nurses. They are doing other things. They are a health workforce in hiding. We must get them back to nursing.”

Adjunct Professor Ward believes the government must implement a coordinated strategy to not only educate more nurses, but keen them in lifelong careers.

“But governments must not look at nurses as a ‘quick fix.’ Nurses must be at the centre of health policy for the long term. Investing in nurses is a wise decision of government.”

She said any campaigns should be targeted at schools.

“The Government has already shown with its teachers’ campaign that promoting a positive image can attract new teachers and keep teachers in the profession they love. They can do the same for nurses and nursing, Australia’s most trusted profession.”

Adjunct Professor Ward said the ACN Pre-Budget Submission emphasised the importance of radical and meaningful reform, including with funding models for primary care.

“Nurses and Nurse Practitioners must have greater access to the MBS. The outdated GP-led fee for service model is broken. There are better ways,” Adjunct Professor Ward said.

“We are presenting practical, achievable recommendations to build a nursing workforce in the right numbers with the right qualifications to serve the growing health needs of the Australian population.

“This investment in nurses is cost effective and will deliver tangible benefits for government, the nursing profession, the health system, the community and patients – and is far less than is spent on other health professions.”

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Nicole Madigan

Nicole Madigan is a widely published journalist with more than 15 years experience in the media and communications industries.

Specialising in health, business, property and finance, Nicole writes regularly for numerous high-profile newspapers, magazines and online publications.

Before moving into freelance writing almost a decade ago, Nicole was an on-air reporter with Channel Nine and a newspaper journalist with News Limited.

Nicole is also the Director of content and communications agency Stella Communications (www.stellacomms.com) and a children's author.