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Hospitals are the nation’s largest employer of health workers.

In 2012-13, there were 1338 hospitals in Australia, comprising 746 public hospitals, accounting for 68 per cent of hospital beds (58,300 beds), and 592 private hospitals, accounting for about 32 per cent of beds (28,000 beds).

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While the latest hospital employment data, from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) report Australian hospital statistics, does not include figures on private hospital staffing, it shows more than 274,700 people worked in Australia’s public hospitals in 2012-13.

That figure includes about 35,100 medical officers, 124,580 nurses and midwives, 38,700 diagnostic and allied health professionals, 42,800 administrative and clerical staff, and 33,400 other staff.

There is growing demand for hospital employees in Australia.


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From nurses and midwives to doctors, through to a variety of allied health positions, hospitals offer a diverse range of jobs.

Hospitals provide employment opportunities in non-caring roles such as in administration, information technology and communications.

Then there are jobs in direct care roles for health care professionals including registered nurses and registered midwives, clinical nurse specialists, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, physiotherapists, dietitians and occupational therapists.

There are also jobs as speech pathologists, psychologists and exercise physiologists, while in medical imaging there are job opportunities as sonographers, radiographers and radiologists.

Health workers can choose to work in clinical practice, in management or in education, and they can specialise in an almost endless range of specialty fields, such as cardiology, oncology, neonatal, rehabilitation, respiratory, palliative care, haematology, gastroenterology, immunology, perioperative, critical care, accident and emergency, neurology, renal and midwifery.

Hospital jobs offer something for everyone, says Amelia Hartley, a nurse unit manager at Epworth Eastern in Melbourne.

“There are so many different specialties, so many different areas, so many opportunities for allied health professionals and nurses,” she says.

“Nursing-wise you can be your registered nurse on a ward, management wise you can be an associate nurse unit manager and then move on to nurse unit manager jobs, or be a clinical nurse specialist or a discharge planning nurse.

“You might want to work in education as a diabetic educator, educating the patients that are newly-diagnosed with diabetes, going through their medications and how they manage their diabetes.

“There’s hospital in the home nurses, so they go out to people’s homes and give them antibiotics and do their dressings and do injections, so that the patients don’t need to stay in hospital for weeks at a time.”

Hospitals are a great environment for graduate nurses to get a taste of working in a few different areas as part of their rotations. Hospitals also provide health workers with ample opportunities for professional development.

Hospital jobs offer flexible working conditions for employees, from weekday work to night shifts, 12-hour shifts and short shifts. They are also a unique workplace environment, providing challenging and stimulating work.

The work also comes with its own rewards - helping sick people and supporting their families or carers.

“Working in hospitals is chaotic at times - it’s also fun and enjoyable,” Ms Hartley says. “It can be fast-paced in areas like emergency while rehab is slower but busy as the patients need your full assistance.

“It’s a constant environment to work in - you’ll never be bored. I love it.”

Cultures can vary between large and small hospitals and whether they are public or private hospitals. While awards vary between jurisdictions, public hospitals are often considered to have better working conditions.

Public hospitals in some states offer nurse and midwife to patient ratios, which mandate the number of nurses and midwives to patients and also their skill mix.

As a result, nurses and midwives in the public sector are often caring for fewer patients compared to their colleagues in the private sector, while the remuneration in the public sector can also be higher.

Public hospitals also treat a larger share of patients with a lower socio-economic status. Patients in the public sector are often older, have co-morbidities, chronic conditions and a health status related to their socio-economic status, with lifestyle or surgical risk factors such as smoking or obesity.

Public hospitals feature a larger variety of services and treatments while private hospitals can offer a more modern working environment and provide more control over their employees’ workloads.

“The main difference if you come from a big public hospital to a smaller private hospital, like at Epworth, is that you have quite a good relationship with executive management and you could just about name every staff member in the hospital, from cleaners to kitchen staff to nursing staff,”  says Ms Hartley, who has spent 10 years working in a variety of hospitals across the public and private sectors.

“Coming from a big public hospital, there’s obviously a lot more staff but I wouldn’t have really known who the CEO was or what the direction was for the hospital.”

Those wanting to work in hospitals should be flexible, be a good communicator, and have empathy and compassion, Ms Hartley advises.

“I think it’s being open-minded to the diversity of the patients and situations that you might be exposed to - you come across a lot of different cultures and things that you wouldn’t have been exposed to before,” she says.

“I think patience is also something you definitely need to have to work in a hospital environment, just being patient with your patients - allowing them to express their concerns to you and being able to listen to them and make them feel safe.”


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Karen Keast

Karen Keast is a freelance health journalist who writes news and feature articles for HealthTimes.

Karen regularly writes for some of Australia’s leading health news websites and magazines.  In a media career spanning 20 years, Karen has worked as a senior journalist in newspapers and television. She has covered the grind of daily news and worked as a politics reporter at countless state and federal elections.

Since venturing into freelance writing five years ago, Karen has found her niche in writing about the health sector for editors, businesses and corporations.

Karen has interviewed the heads of peak health organisations in Australia and overseas, and written hundreds of news and feature articles covering the dedicated work of health professionals who tread the corridors of hospitals and health services, universities, aged care facilities and practices, day in and day out.

Follow Karen Keast on Twitter @stylemywords