UWS calls for action on national review of nursing education

Date: 26/09/2002

The head of Australia's biggest nursing school says governments at all levels need to move on the recommendations of the National Review of Nursing Education, 'Our Duty of Care', if they are to stop the decline of the nursing profession.

"Economic rationalism has meant that governments have ignored the decline of the nursing profession for far too long," says Professor John Daly, Head of the University of Western Sydney's School of Nursing, Family and Community Health.

"Predictions that the health care system will lose another 30,000 nurses over the next five years are a frightening prospect. If we are going to fix the problem we need a cooperative, coordinated effort best led at the Federal Government level."

Professor Daly welcomed the Review's 36 recommendations, saying they provide a range of strategies that could improve the working conditions and image of the nursing profession and enhance education and research programs.

"The recommendation to include additional funding for the clinical education component of undergraduate pre-registration courses is particularly important," says Professor Daly.

"The increasing costs associated with the clinical component of nursing courses are a major burden for Australia's nursing schools."

However, Professor Daly believes the review does not go far enough in addressing ways in which to create alternative modes of entry into nursing.

"I would like to see opportunities to establish alternative entry schemes, for example, undergraduate sandwich-type pre-registration courses with salaried workforce clinical experience," he says.

"Such co-operative models have been very successful in the past in Australia and overseas. Piloting new modes of entry and models of preparation may lead to gains in educational processes and levels of clinical services."

Professor Daly believes the review's recommendations could be an important first step in improving the workplace culture, job satisfaction and quality of work life for nurses overall, but he says more still needs to be done.

"The nursing crisis has now reached breaking point. Much of the problems stem from poor working conditions and low pay, which means the retention rates for nurses are at an all-time low," Professor Daly says.

"There is no simple answer. Simply creating more university places and training opportunities doesn't solve the problem of being able to keep nurses in the hospital system.

"That is why the recommendations to improve the work life of nurses need to be addressed now.

"Urgent injections of resources are needed to turn this situation around and lay the foundations for secure, quality and safe health care services across Australia.

"Nurses are the backbone of our health care system. It's time that governments recognised this and valued the tremendous contributions that nurses make to 24-hour health care in more tangible ways."

For more information or requests for interviews:
Amanda Whibley
Senior Media Officer
Phone: 9678 7472
Mobile: 0418 438 399
Email: a.whibley@uws.edu.au