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Upskilling nurses in a post-Covid world

‘The challenges are not just ours, they’re Australia-wide challenges, but we have programs to help people get back on track.’

The last few years have been fraught with challenges for our health care professionals. Despite leveraging our geography to minimise the impact of Covid-19 in Australia, the people who keep our healthcare system humming along - our nurses - have felt the brunt. For nurses, the knock-on effect of Covid-19 is longer lasting and hits in surprising ways. New graduates, recent graduates and their nursing colleagues are faced with navigating a changing landscape.

Jacqualine Apps, Education and Training Director of the Australian Healthcare Academy (AHA), explained some of those challenges and the exciting opportunities for nurses looking to upskill in 2022.

The current climate

Nurses graduating in the last few years have found it difficult to find placements, which affects not just the individual but also the number of nurses in the workforce. Failing to secure a placement upon graduating delays integrating into the workforce, and leads to deskilled nurses.

‘Because of Covid, placements are all out of whack everywhere. Once you miss intake you’re really on that spiral of making it difficult. You’ve got to wait for the next round of intake. You wait for another 6 months and you’ve got new graduates. People are more likely to take on new graduates. The 6-month-old graduate is de-skilled.’

Complicating matters are the requirements for registration. ’If you don’t practice within the first two years - 150 hours within the first two years of you graduating and not registering, you can have conditions placed on your registration. A lot of people are in that vacuum.’

At AHA, Jacqualine has found nurses need support in different ways to ensure their skills meet the industry requirements. ‘You’ve got some people who have never practised, people who need a refresher, people who have only been in a GP practice, mental health, or Covid clinic.’ For those who went directly to a Covid clinic post-graduation, Jacqualine says as the Covid clinics are closed, these nurses will require upskilling to find their next job.

Supply and demand

At AHA, ensuring enough nurses workforce ready remains a key goal for 2022 ’The demand for nurses outstrips the number of nurses that we have.’ Jacqualine explains ‘Hospitals are telling me they used to get 300 applicants for 6 positions, now, they’re not filling many graduate positions.’

The importance of being work ready

‘If you have deskilled nurses out there, their chance of harming someone or making an error is quite high.’

‘At AHA, we develop staff to feel confident and comfortable in a supported environment.’ Implementing systems for placements including a buddy, ongoing support via on-site educators and skill-specific programs such as a theatre program.’

Closing the skills gap

For those looking to upskill in 2022, Jacqualine and her team at AHA have exciting opportunities including increasing day program offerings, online day programs, micro-credential units, aged care support, community service and more.

‘We’re very much focused on providing people with enough information. If people have questions, come forward and ask. Sometimes people call us and they just want advice. We don’t pigeon-hole people into a particular program, we chat through what they need and develop an individualised program.’


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