Nursing student savages Victoria's $16,500 plan to solve staff crisis

A nursing student is disappointed at Victoria's announcement to pay for nurses and midwives' entire degrees, saying Premier Daniel Andrews is "addressing the wrong issue".

In a TikTok video Sydney nursing student Lauren, who is in her final year, said increasing the number of nursing students isn't going to fix immediate healthcare shortages.

"I think it completely misses the issue at hand which isn’t that there is a lack of nursing students, but that there are a lack of new grad jobs for us," she said.

A Sydney nursing student sharing her thoughts in a TikTok student about the Victorian government's plan to pay for the degrees of nurses and midwives. Source: TikTok/ studyvlogloz
A Sydney nursing student has criticised the Victorian government's plan to pay for the degrees of nurses and midwives. Source: TikTok/studyvlogloz

"One of the reasons that there aren’t that many jobs for new grads is because there just aren’t people to train us — the workforce is short."

"People are leaving left right and centre, they are burnt out, nurses are seriously understaffed and seriously overworked."

Secretary of the Victoria branch of Australian Nurses and Midwives Federation (ANMF), Lisa Fitzpatrick, told Yahoo News Australia that she doesn't support Lauren's claim of work shortages for new graduates, however agreed nursing recruits need more "mentoring and support, and assistance at their workplace".

Assistant General Secretary of the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association (NSWNMA), Michael Whaites, recognises the problem graduate nurses are facing.

"Those that get a new grad position feel like they're not supported well enough to transition," he said.

"So that's a lack of senior staff in the workplace, it's a lack of clinical nurse or midwifery educators in the workplace who can spend time with those in a transitioning year," he said.

"Another reason there aren't enough senior nurses is because they are just walking out the door due to the workloads."

The 21 year-old Sydney student said money needs to be directed to supporting existing nurses and students.

"If we have the money to give people free degrees, why can’t we be using that money for either the nursing students currently or those that are working as nurses for services that are going to reduce burnout and increase retention rates," she said.

"If there’s no focus on retention or reducing burnout, it’s a never ending cycle of shortages."

Students to receive a scholarship of up to $16,500

Under the five-year program, all new domestic students enrolling in a professional-entry nursing and midwifery course in 2023 and 2024 will receive a scholarship of up to $16,500 to cover the course costs.

The $270 million initiative was announced on Sunday by the Victorian government and will cover the student fees of more than 10,000 future nurses and midwives to ease workforce pressures on Victoria's healthcare system.

The government has forecast Victoria needs 65,000 more health and community care workers in the next three years.

Students will receive $9000 over their three years of study and the remaining $7500 would be paid off if they work in Victorian public health services for two years.

Scholarships worth an average of $10,000 will also be handed to postgraduate nurses to complete studies in specialist areas, including intensive care, emergency, paediatrics and cancer care.

A picture of two trainee nurses. Source: Getty
Budding nurses and midwives in Victoria will have their degrees paid in full by the government starting from next year. Source: Getty

Other features of the package include:

  • An expanded postgraduate midwifery program to cover course costs, and salary support for 150 existing nurses to complete their studies

  • $11,000 scholarships to cover course costs for enrolled nurses to become registered nurses

  • $12,000 scholarships for 100 new nurse practitioners in both acute and community settings

  • More than $20 million to help graduates and postgraduates transition to working in hospitals

Mr Andrews said the Victorian government has been working on the package for months, as hospitals across the state were buckling under the weight of the latest COVID-19 wave.

"Our hospital system is under very, very significant pressure," he said, adding that up to 2000 health workers were off sick with the virus on any given day this winter," Mr Andrews said.

"If COVID is raging, well, nurses are not immune from that."

Nurse and midwife groups respond

Following the announcement, the Victorian branch of ANMF was thankful for the "nation's only statewide plan to support the employment and growth of nurse practitioners."

"The ANMF (Vic Branch) has welcomed the Andrews Government’s detailed plans to grow the nursing and midwifery workforce by removing undergraduate and postgraduate education costs," they said in a statement.

Ms Fitzpatrick told Yahoo News Australia that 25 per cent of nurses and midwives were leaving their courses because of financial barriers.

"The $270 million plan will help thousands of young and mature-age nursing and midwifery undergraduates overcome significant financial barriers to access education and become our future workforce," the statement continued.

NSWNMA expressed a similar sentiment, urging the NSW government to "follow Victoria’s lead and future-proof the state’s health system."

“In recent years we’ve seen three thousand nurses and midwives move interstate, because they can experience better working conditions with mandated safe nurse-to-patient ratios in Victoria, Queensland, the ACT and soon to be in South Australia," said NSWNMA General Secretary Shaye Candish in a statement.

“We know there are plenty of nurses and midwives pulling out of university studies or worse, walking away from a career in nursing or midwifery because they’ve had a negative experience during clinical placement in NSW."

One person holding up a sign as nurses and midwives protest staff conditions in Sydney earlier this year. Source: Getty
Nurses and midwives protesting staff conditions in Sydney earlier this year. Source: Getty

NSWNMA Assistant General Secretary, Michael Whaites, said more support was desperately needed on the ground and reiterated calls for more clinical nurse/midwife educators to be employed throughout the state.

“We’re continuing to urge the NSW and federal governments to work with us on developing practical, longer term solutions to address these issues and ensure we can retain nurses and midwives across our state, but also to provide a supportive and collaborative work environment for new graduates through to senior practicing clinician,” Mr Whaites said.

Nursing community remain frustrated

On Facebook under the ANMF's statement, frustration was expressed for existing nurses who wouldn't receive any finances as part of this initiative.

“What about the current nurses with HECS that studied and worked through the pandemic?! The ones so burnout out that they left nursing!?” one nurse said.

"How about an appropriate incentive to keep the experienced staff, instead of a taxable $3000 'retention payment'" another piped in.

"Heck, even just free accessible parking would go a long way for lots of nurses," came another comment.

"Without a better culture and retaining of nurses, there’s no point educating new nurses who will just leave after RNs (registered nurses)," one person said on TikTok.

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