Nurses workforce grows

Australia’s nursing and midwifery workforce is continuing to grow, according to a report released last Thursday (28 June 2012).

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) report, Nursing and midwifery workforce 2011, shows the total number of nurses and midwives registered in Australia last year was 326,669, a 6.8% increase since 2007.

The number of nurses and midwives employed in nursing also increased between 2007 and 2011 – up 7.7% from 263,331 to 283,577.

Of those employed in nursing and midwifery, 36,074 were midwives, though only 15,523 reported working in midwifery as the principal area of their main job.

Despite the increasing numbers of registered and employed nurses and midwives, when compared to the population, supply decreased by 1.3% between 2007 and 2011, from 1,095 to 1,081 full-time equivalent nurses and midwives per 100,000 population based on a 38-hour week.

According to AIHW spokesperson, Vicki Bennett, supply also varied regionally, ranging from 1,102 full-time equivalent nurses and midwives per 100,000 population in major cities to 995 in outer regional areas to 1,336 in very remote areas based on a 38-hour week.

Nursing and midwifery continued to be a female-dominated profession, with women comprising 90% of employed nurses and midwives in 2011.

“The nursing and midwifery workforce is also getting older, with the average age increasing from 43.7 to 44.5 years between 2007 and 2011. The proportion of nurses and midwives aged 50 or older also increased over this period from 33.0% to 38.6%,” Ms Bennett said.

The average weekly hours worked by employed nurses and midwives decreased from 33.3 hours in 2007 to 32.8 hours in 2011. Nurses and midwives working in the public sector (almost two-thirds of all nurses) worked an average of 2.4 hours more per week than their private sector counterparts.

Of all employed clinical nurses and midwives, almost two-thirds worked in hospitals.

A nursing and midwifery workforce report, released last week, also showed the number of Australian nurses and midwives working overseas had increased by almost 400% over four years.

Australian College of Nursing chief executive officer, Debra Thomas, said nursing was a “portable qualification”, with many nurses often working for a couple of years in Australia before heading overseas to combine work and travel.

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