More nurses working shorter hours harder

More than half of Australia's employed nurses are working part-time-revealing a trend towards shorter hours and a decrease in the supply of nursing, according to a new report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

Nursing Labour Force 2001 shows the number of employed nurses increased by 3.6% from 216,696 in 1993 to 224,595 in 1999. This growth was accompanied by an increase in the proportion of nurses working part-time, from about 47% to 54% in that period.

Head of the AIHW's Labour Force and Rural Health Unit, Glenice Taylor, said that average hours worked by nurses had fallen from 32 to 30 hours worked per week.

'This resulted in a fall in the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) nurses-from 1,074 nurses per 100,000 population in 1993 to 1,018 in 1999,' Ms Taylor said.

'Meanwhile the number of admissions to public and private acute and psychiatric hospitals increased recently, from 5.3 million in 1995-96 to 6 million in 1999-00.'

Nursing Labour Force 2001 also shows a 20% decline in the number of clinical nurses working in geriatrics/gerontology (aged care)-from 41,686 in 1993 to 33,335 in 1999. In contrast, the number of nurses employed in community health services increased by about 80% over the same period.

'The shift away from residential aged care to community-based nursing is associated with the increase in the provision of aged care through programs such as the Home and Community Care (HACC) program and Community Aged Care Packages (CACP), rather than through residential care places', Ms Taylor said.

The report shows that, as with many other health occupations, the nursing work force is getting older-but Ms Taylor said 'of more concern' is the decline in new entrants to nursing.

'In 1993, the average age of nurses was 39.5 years-this has now increased to 41.6 years in 1999. Meanwhile, Australian students completing basic nursing courses fell by 20% between 1993 and 2000, and the number commencing fell by 4% between 1999 and 2001.'

Further, there has been a decline in the net gain of nurses from migration. Between 1995-96 and 1999-2000, the net gain of arrivals over departures dropped from 1,523 to 1,360 (11%).



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