A third of Australia’s nurses are thinking of leaving the profession

by admin on July 18th, 2018

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A new study of nurses and midwives’ wellbeing found almost a third of Australia’s nurses are thinking of leaving the profession. File photoNursing had become “too dangerous” for Catherine Taylor before she left the profession.
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Ms Taylor resigned in April from her job as a nurse in an acute mental health care unit in south-west Sydney.

“It was just getting too dangerous. I felt we were getting a lot of new graduates who were inexperienced and undergraduates who have done a week’s mental health training,” she said.

“This led to inexperienced staff dealing with highly psychotic patients who would either escalate the situation or not know how to handle it and not report a patient who was suicidal because they didn’t want to appear incompetent.

Brett Holmes, general secretary of the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association. Photo: Ryan Osland

“That placed a lot of stress on senior staff and put them at risk.”

A new study of nurses and midwives’ wellbeing by the Monash Business School has found almost a third of Australia’s nurses are thinking of leaving the profession because they are overworked, undervalued and in danger of burning out.

The survey “What Nurses & Midwives Want: Findings from the National Survey on Workplace Climate and Well-being” also found a quarter of those surveyed reported they were either likely or very likely to leave the profession.

Researchers said there is a looming shortage, with the majority of the nursing and midwifery workforce in Australia already aged 47 years or older and set to retire in the next decade.

Catherine Taylor, who resigned from nursing in April this year because the job had become “too dangerous” with inexperienced staff in a mental health uni at a hospital in south-western Sydney. Photo: Andrew Darby

Monash Business School’s Australian Consortium for Research on Employment and Work has found nurse workloads have increased since it first began surveying the profession in 2011.

The vast majority said they were increasingly forced to do hard work very quickly.

Nurses reported a lack of support for flexible work arrangements and a failure of management to properly handle cases of physical, verbal and sexual harassment and intense workloads.

“Such negative perceptions were most prevalent in New South Wales and in the areas of mental health, critical care and emergency, maternity care and aged care,” the researchers said.

Ms Taylor, 56, who now lives in the Hunter Valley, said she left because “it got too much and higher management don’t give a hoot about the staff”.

“They put inexperienced staff in charge and that is really scary,” she said.

“You are constantly carrying them and your workload increases because they don’t know what they are doing.”

Brett Holmes, general secretary of the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association said there needs to be more open conversations between the government, hospital management, staff and their unions to address issues including inadequate staffing levels, increasing patient complexity and the need for one-to-one care of patients with fewer staff resources.

Mr Holmes said a reduction in management support and inappropriate skill mix also needed to be addressed to “retain staff and meet the growing demands on the nursing and midwifery workforce”.

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