Report backs paid clinical placements for nursing students

The report makes 47 recommendations for change it says are ‘urgently’ needed to meet Australia’s future skills challenges – including increasing the tertiary attainment rate from 60% to at least 80% of Australians in the workforce by 2050, moving to a needs-based funding model to ensure under-represented groups receive greater access to higher education, and modernising the HECS/HELP loan system, moving to a student contribution scheme based on lifetime earnings.

After receiving “strong feedback” from students about the burdens imposed by unpaid work placements, which include having to forego paid work to complete unpaid placements, and relocating away from home, the report calls on the federal government to fund paid placements in key industries including nursing, care, and teaching, to ensure ‘placement poverty’ doesn’t discourage tertiary participation and prevent successful course completion.

  • To reduce the financial hardship and placement poverty caused by mandatory unpaid placements, the Australian Government work with tertiary education providers, state and territory governments, industry, business and unions to introduce financial support for unpaid work placements. This should include funding by governments for the nursing, care and teaching professions, and funding by employers generally (public and private) for other fields.

According to the report, addressing growing ‘placement poverty’ is critical.

“Providing financial support for placements is essential to ensure that enough students can meet their placement requirements without falling into poverty and there are enough skilled graduates for future jobs,” the report said.

“The Review is recommending that industry and employers make reasonable contributions to the costs of providing placements as they benefit from the pipeline of qualified people to fill jobs, and that the Government provide financial support for students undertaking placements in key industries including nursing, care and teaching.”

In its 2024-25 pre-budget submission, the ANMF called on the federal government to:

  • Fund placements for nursing and midwifery students undertaking clinical placements as part of their courses.
  • Fund meals, travel, and accommodation allowances for students of nursing and midwifery while on clinical placement.
  • Provide funding for clinical facilitator positions in public hospitals to assist in increasing the number and quality of clinical placements.

The report proposes that implementation of its 47 recommendations be staged. The federal government, who released the report over the weekend, said it is currently considering its recommendations.

10 Responses

  1. I totally agree! Being a hospital trained clinical registered nurse I have watched so many student nurses(since introduction of University training) struggle enormously with unpaid placements. My daughter is currently struggling through her Nursing degree having to move back home as with the rising costs of living, could no longer afford to share rent. The constant stress of trying to juggle her part time jobs with placements and stupid University lecture times-eg one class a day across the whole week( when she couldn’t get the times of requested classes) has created mental health issues that she never had before starting her training. One placement of 6 weeks was at a Doctors surgery where she spent many days assembling IKEA furniture packs for them-when she contacted the University to say she was getting NO nursing experience ,there was no action taken! A complete and utter waste of time! She is getting her placement fees added to her HEX bill so she should be receiving the maximum exposure to a real NURSING EXPERIENCE!!
    Nursing placements nowadays just seem to be UNPAiD SLAVE labour!! There seems to be NO accountability of training acquired by the Universities -they just tick boxes.
    For trainee nurses to receive a total complete comprehensive PRACTICAL training and be retained in this working industry , be productive and competent at completion so they feel they can perform as Registered Nurses on completion-the SYSTEM needs to change!
    The number of Registered Nurses retained in the Nursing industry after completing their training and then entering the REAL work situation is unfortunately NOT sustainable.
    I work in the Operating theatres -student numbers rotating through are incredibly LOW-placed between one day and 2 weeks length-not enough time to get involved in any REAL experience eg scrubbing etc-it’s so sad as it’s a wonderful job-and so many of us in the 60+ age group are retiring and there are just NO replacements.
    Over my 48 year career ,watching the demise of total nursing care for patients and the incredible stress most student nurses nowadays are experiencing without any support( both financially and thru comraderie) is frightening and very very sad.
    Please for everyone’s health and well-being ,this situation needs to be urgently addressed!

  2. Totally agree. My granddaughter studying radiography , same situation, port Macquarie uni needed to relocate back home to Gulgong could not afford to rent and is working to try and pay for accommodation on placements. ,, Canberra one month , Mudgee, Orange One month ,, plus drive all the way to port Macquarie one day a week for study stay overnight and drive back to Gulgong for work and live at home , plus many assignments , this is not acceptable , she is very committed and really loves radiography , and is a very bright studious student. Slave labour, when working for pracs . They are sent to areas not of their choosing. All health students should. Be paid allowances for accommodation, meals and travel. Not everyone is wealthy.

  3. I am a retired Registered Nurse who studied as a mature age student. I have up full time work to study full time, my husband took another job in order to make ends meet.,fortunately my clinical placements were all close to my home. My daughter is a Registered Nurse who we helped financially and with children when she was forced to do her clinical placements in a country town despite the fact she was a single parent, we helped pay for her accommodation and expenses. Our granddaughter is now in her final year of her nursing degree and has had to take a leave of absence as she is unable to cope with the pressure her clinical placement has put on her. She lives in the outer suburbs does not drive and is autistic, her placement was in the city centre over an hour away by public transport. The university is aware of her condition and makes allowances for her in her classes. She has a NDIS support program and the university recognises this. For her placement her special needs were not considered. A twelve hour day proved too much, eight hour shift and travel time. We met with the course coordinator who agreed that they should have done better but it too late for this year. We were advised that her placement next year will be closer to her home, it has added another year to her programme and has had an enormous impact on her mental health and confidence. The university is happy to take her fees and need to be far more inclusive and understanding of students who have different abilities.

  4. As a current bachelor of nursing student I can agree that the financial burden of professional experience placements are huge to me and my family and paid placements are needed for students too ease financial pressure.

  5. I am an Enrolled Nurse, my wage goes towards our mortgage, school fees & general living costs of our family of 6. I would study for my RN but it’s the money I won’t earn while on placement that goes towards all of these costs that holds me back. I simply cannot afford to undertake the study for my RN due to the loss of wages while on placement. If paid placement became a reality I wouldn’t hesitate to undertake the further study to give me greater opportunities in my career.

  6. I totally agree with the recommendation but I’ll go one step more and ask to review placement hours for existing EN doing their RN if they are currently working in an acute setting already, that should help lower the number of hours required for placement .

  7. I think while the union are at it , they might as well consider less placement hours for existing EN doing the bachelors who has been working in acute setting for more than two years or something like that. Because it a waste of time to go and learn about showers and doing bed again or doing regular obs. It should be more focus and shorter placement for nurses with experience and having regular life routine less like family, mortgage and working full or part time.

  8. I totally agree it is such a financial problem as the cost of living has made life difficult enough then ro have do clinical placements and not be paid is such a struggle I know this to well as I have just completed 4 weeks unpaid placement and My concern is that I have one more to finish my degree which will be 7 weeks so I’m that will be all that time not paid also
    So we need to be paid to be on placement

  9. Placement is ridiculous for EN to RN , observed and assessed on doing tasks that I already do in a clinical setting, at a major tertiary hospital, as an AHPRA registered professional. And that I’ve have worked hundreds of hours of shift work and accrued leave that then gets used while I am essentially paying the uni to work for free.
    The whole system needs an overhaul! Paid placements or free degree would be a start!

  10. So I’m a Senior Enrolled Nurse with Diploma of Nursing for 12 years experience and I only get 1 years credits. I still need to complete full placements even though I’ve only worked in hospitals my entire career. I’m no t just talking about myself any enrolled nurse in my position should have a chuck of placement credited and increase the pay to allow for the rise in cost of living. Also we need paid placement.

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