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  • Jobs forecast in nursing, midwifery and allied health

    Author: Karen Keast

A review of New Zealand’s health workforce points to job opportunities for midwives in rural areas, nurses in advanced practice areas and demand for sonographers and MRI technicians.

The Health Workforce New Zealand report, Health of the Health Workforce, predicts a demand for nurses in cancer care, aged care, endoscopy and long-term condition management.

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The report states New Zealand will need to train more nurses by 2017 due to the looming retirement of the ageing workforce, with 46 per cent of nurses in March this year aged over 50 - up from 40 per cent in 2009.

“The risk of staff shortages becomes greater as the proportion of experienced nurses approaching retirement increases,” it states.

“This is a particular issue in specialty areas with the highest average ages, such as palliative care (for which the average age of nurses is 53 years, up from 50 in 2009) and mental heath (for which the average age is 51 years)."


The report also points to opportunities for midwives in rural areas and good prospects for some allied health professions, including sonographers, MRI technicians, dental hygienists and dental therapists.

It states prospects for occupational therapists and pharmacists will remain stable while job prospects may be limited for dietitians.

The demand for carers and support workers in the non-regulated health workforce is also predicted to rise in line with the ageing population and the trend for care away from hospitals and closer to people’s homes.

The report reveals New Zealand’s nursing workforce has grown steadily in the past five years from 48,527 in 2011 to 51,387 practising nurses - including 48,390 registered nurses, 2868 enrolled nurses and 129 nurse practitioners.

It shows Maori and Pacific nurses are under-represented compared to the Maori and Pacific patient population across all of the district health board (DHB) regions.

Overseas-trained nurses make up 26 per cent of the nation’s workforce, with just over half coming from Australia and the United Kingdom while some come from Asia.

The report also highlights a trend for nurses to leave the New Zealand workforce when economic conditions improve.

“Some leave the profession, others seek employment in countries such as Australia, where a shortage of nurses is forecast,” it states.

“This is expected to place further pressure on New Zealand’s future supply of nurses.”

While the nation’s nursing workforce is ageing, its midwifery workforce is slowly decreasing in age due to an increase in student midwifery numbers.

Figures show New Zealand had 3072 practising midwives in March 2013, up from 2823 in 2009.

New Zealand had 23,966 practising allied health professionals spanning 20 professions in 2013, with 555 dietitians, 169 MRI technicians, 2296 occupational therapists, 661 optometrists, 3351 pharmacists, 4265 physiotherapists, 538 psychotherapists and 348 radiation therapists.

New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) professional services manager Susanne Trim labelled delays in planning for the impending nursing shortage as “worrying”.

“We identified the urgent need to address the pending crisis a number of years ago,” she said.

“The shortage will occur in a mere two years time.

“Progress at a national level has been extremely slow with little attention and priority given to nursing workforce planning until late last year.”

Ms Trim said planning was still needed around education for nurses to meet predicted shortages and how graduates can be guaranteed employment into supported positions.

“We look forward to working closely with other nursing organisations, HWNZ and the Ministry of Health to develop an effective nursing workforce plan for now and into the future.”


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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