Supporting early career nurses and midwives

Professional Update

The national Early Career Nurse and Midwife working group have been working together for many years now with the common goal of supporting early career nurses and midwives to find meaningful employment and transition support. The group has recently achieved a number of important outcomes.

As the Chair, I feel honoured to support this dedicated group of more than 20 nurses and midwives who work in various settings, including health policy, academia, regulation, professional organisations and the union, to progress our common objectives.

The group has a number of key objectives, which include: monitoring and recommending changes to the collection of workforce data relating to employment; monitoring and addressing current issues that arise for early career nurses and midwives; and communicating and collaborating with governments and other key stakeholders regarding employment and transition requirements.

Workforce data

The working group has been monitoring and analysing available data relating to the employment of these nurses and midwives for many years. The ANMF produces a yearly data set report. Despite this, the data on underemployment of nursing and midwifery graduates remains unclear. At the beginning of each year, we are unable to clearly identify how many newly graduating nurses and midwives in Australia gain meaningful employment following graduation. Jurisdictional health departments are able to identify how many positions are available in public health services and how many gain employment, however, the data on those who gain employment in private hospitals, aged care or in primary health settings is not collected and therefore, the whole picture is not understood. Without this data, it is difficult to develop effective policy to address issues leading to both under and unemployment.

The working group has been and continues to work closely with anyone willing to listen to address these data issues. We have formally met with the Commonwealth Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer, the Commonwealth Department of Health, Ahpra and the NMBA, outlining the issues and suggested solutions. Everyone we meet with is dedicated to working together and through our collective work, a number of possible solutions have been progressed. These include enhancing graduate specific data collected in the workforce survey at registration renewal, enhancing the accuracy of the available student register data, and developing a survey for graduates to complete when they finalise their NMBA initial registration. If these actions were implemented, the professions would have at our fingertips the data we need to support employment of early career nurses and midwives.

Unemployment for early career nurses and midwives

Although we struggle to accurately identify how many graduating nurses and midwives haven’t found meaningful employment, we use an annual ANMF survey which shows that many have been unsuccessful to date. The working group is dedicated to supporting these colleagues to remain connected to the professions and we continue to work with all stakeholders to improve employment opportunities for these nurses and midwives. The group also recently developed a Fact Sheet- Support for Early Career Nurses and Midwives in Securing Employment to assist these nurses and midwives in gaining employment and to outline supports they can easily access.

Ahpra/NMBA notifications

Of concern to the working group is an increase in notifications being made against newly graduated nurses and midwives. Like other professions, nurses and midwives in their first year of practice need support to transition from student to a nurse or midwife. They need time and a safety support net to consolidate theory into practice. Unfortunately for some early career nurses and midwives, the lack of effective support has led to a notification. These nurses and midwives are new to the professions and often don’t know who to turn to. The working group has developed a Fact Sheet- Early Career Nurses and Midwives and Notifications. This fact sheet provides an overview of the notification process, links to further information and where they can access support in a difficult time.

Early career nurses and midwives are a key part of our professions now and into the future. They need to be employed and supported during transition. The working group will continue to advocate for our early career nurse and midwife colleagues and I hope you will do the same.

Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation. Graduate Data Set- Nurses and Midwives. Melbourne; 2021.
National Early Career Nurse and Midwife Working Group. Fact Sheet- Support for Early Career Nurses and Midwives in Securing Employment. Melbourne; 2022.
National Early Career Nurse and Midwife Working Group. Fact Sheet- Early Career Nurses and Midwives and Notifications. Melbourne; 2022.

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