Nursing faces staffing crisis: advisor

HEATHER SIMPSON
Last updated 09:17 31/07/2014

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More than 500 nurses in Marlborough and Nelson will reach retirement age in the next 10 years, leaving the region exposed to a skills shortfall, a nursing union says.

Already, about 100 working nurses are over 65.

New Zealand Nursing Organisation professional nursing adviser Suzanne Rolls said if permanent positions for generation Y nurses were not created, in 10 to 15 years Nelson Marlborough and the rest of New Zealand would suffer a workforce gap.

Yesterday Health Minister Tony Ryall said the Government would invest $2.8m to fund up to 200 additional training places for nurse graduates next year across hospitals and rest homes in New Zealand.

The nurse-entry-to-practice programme offers professional and educational support for graduate nurses in their first year of practice.

But Rolls said the 12-month fixed term training positions did not necessarily lead to permanent jobs, which did not encourage young people to stay.

Workforce planning had been "woefully absent" and the organisation is lobbying Health Workforce New Zealand to offer graduate nurses on the 12-month training programme permanent positions, Rolls said.

"These nurses can't wait for policy-makers to make decisions. They have huge student loans, they have invested a lot of their life in their community and they have restructured their career around their family. They need permanent positions to feel secure."

According to figures from the New Zealand Nursing Organisation, the majority of the 1584 nurses employed in Nelson Marlborough were in the baby boomer age group.

There are 623 nurses in the 50 to 59 age bracket in Nelson Marlborough and 137 nurses in the generation Y age group of 25-34.

Marlborough and Nelson required the expertise of the baby boomer generation but needed to open up more permanent jobs for younger graduate nurses.

The organisation and the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board have started a review of the rostering and skills mix on hospital wards to ensure they have enough nurses.

The board's assistant director of nursing, Sue Allen, is responsible for nursing across the region and is based at Wairau Hospital in Blenheim.

The average age of nurses working for the board is 52, three years older than initial predictions.

Allen said an ageing nursing workforce was a national problem.

They had started workforce planning to fill vacancies left by retiring nurses, Allen said.

A business case would be submitted in the next year for more nursing positions, she said.

Allen said 28 graduates had come into primary and secondary care across the district this year.

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The problem was workforce retention.

"A lot of graduates that have trained with us want to go off and travel.

"However, graduates with us this year have indicated that they want to stay on. They have found a good footing in the community and have become part of the society."the society."

- The Marlborough Express

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