One-in-four Australian primary health care nurses say they are under-utilised and could be doing more to maximise their skillset, according to an annual nursing workforce report just published in MJA Insight.
The APNA/Health Professionals Bank Workforce Survey involving 2,052 primary health care nurse respondents reveals of the nearly 50 per cent who suggested to their employer they could undertake more complex clinical activities, less than half were permitted to do so.
Release of the findings coincides with the launch of Health Professionals Bank today – Australia’s first and only bank dedicated exclusively to nurses, midwives, healthcare professionals and their families.
General Manager of Health Professionals Bank, Carolyn Murphy, Melbourne, said there needs to be a change in employers’ perception of nurses’ value, and greater recognition of their contribution to patient care, team sustainability and the healthcare industry more broadly.
“Nurses are Australia’s unsung heroes and work tirelessly to provide the best quality patient care for our community. The nursing profession is highly skilled and ready to tackle Australia’s healthcare challenges, so it’s vital nurses and midwives are enabled to reach their full potential at work.
“As the backbone of the healthcare industry, nurses represent more than 60 per cent of the healthcare workforce. A strong nursing workforce will help to ensure high quality, accessible and affordable primary health care provision for all members of our community,” said Ms Murphy.
“As the nation’s most trusted profession, with one of the highest levels of personal fulfilment, nurses deserve to have these values reflected in the professional services they use. Which is why it’s about time they had their own bank dedicated to their needs.”
Health Professionals Bank takes into account the unique features of this key workforce, such as their penalty rates and public service salary packaging arrangements. As an alternative to the big four banks, customer-owned Health Professionals Bank is part of Teachers Mutual Bank Limited, one of Australia’s largest mutual banks. It will focus on socially and environmentally sustainable banking, re-investing profits to provide competitive products and services, and benefit the community.
According to Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association (APNA) President, Karen Booth, Sydney, nurses and midwives utilised to their full potential can promote good health, wellbeing and equitable access to health services for themselves, their colleagues and the broader community.
“Given the pivotal role played by nurses and midwives in protecting public health, today’s launch of a bank dedicated to healthcare professionals will help to meet the needs of this crucial workforce.
“Having primary health care nurses working to their full scope of practice as part of an interdisciplinary team can enable more integrated, efficient and accessible healthcare for all Australians,” Ms Booth said.
Nurses and midwives represent Australia’s largest, single healthcare profession comprising approximately 400,000 nurses, 27,045 nurse midwives and 5,141 midwives. Yet our nation is facing a potential nursing shortage with the departure and retirement of the existing nursing workforce, poor retention rates and population health trends.
“Concerningly, there is currently no clear professional pathway for nurses in primary health care, noting 64 per cent of our survey respondents lacked a written professional development plan,” said Ms Booth.
“Furthermore, 44 per cent of the respondents reported feeling isolated, or lacking the necessary support from their colleagues to optimally perform their roles. This may be further compounded by a reduction in formal career planning and support.
“While the recent development by APNA of a Career and Education Framework for Nurses in PHC has set the groundwork for better recognition, impactful change is yet to come,” Ms Booth said.
Ms Murphy insists nurses, midwives and other healthcare professionals deserve the full support of the financial services industry to help meet their specific needs.
“We understand the unique needs of the health professionals we serve. For instance, Health Professionals Bank recognises the difference between nurses working in primary health care, often private small businesses, and those in the public sector in hospitals, who can access separate tax incentives. Flexible banking options to accommodate shift work are essential, so we have a range of technologies and services to cater for that.
“Nurses and midwives are carers, so we have established a bank that cares for them,” said Ms Murphy.
If you’re a nurse, midwife or healthcare professional wishing to join Health Professionals Bank or to learn more, head to www.hpbank.com.au.