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Nursing overview

Nurses and midwives are trained to provide services to promote, maintain and restore health and well-being. Most work in acute care hospitals, while others work in nursing homes and in community health centres. In terms of skill levels and areas of responsibility, the nursing workforce is not homogeneous, but varies widely according to the type of care being provided, and between work settings from operating theatres to community care.

For ease of discussion, throughout this site the term 'nurse' includes midwives.

All employed nurses

Overall, nursing supply increased by 6.2% between 2005 and 2009, from 1,040 full time equivalent (FTE) nurses per 100,000 population to 1,105 FTE nurses, based on a 38-hour week. This was mainly a result of both a 13.3% increase in the number of employed nurses, and a 0.9% increase in the average hours they worked over this period.

Employed registered and enrolled nurses, selected statistics, by nursing field, 2005 and 2009
Field of nursing Number Average
age (years)
Percentage aged
50 years or over
Average hours
worked per week
FTE rate(a)
2005
Clinician 222,974 44.9 35.4 32.9 947
   Clinical management and or administration/
   management of clinical nurses
25,976 47.5 42.9 39.6 133
   Clinical nursing 196,998 44.6 34.4 32.1 816
   Non-clinician 21,386 46.9 40.2 33.6 93
   Lecturing, education and or supervision of new nurses 7,226 45.3 45.2 31.9 30
   Researcher 1,976 45.5 33.6 34.3 9
   Other 12,183 45.1 35.8 33.0 52
Total 244,360 45.1 35.8 33.0 1,040
2009
Clinician 250,786 44.1 35.7 33.2 998
   Clinical management and or administration/
   management of clinical nurses
29,971 47.3 44.1 39.2 141
   Clinical nursing 220,815 43.7 34.6 32.4 858
   Non-clinician 25,965 46.4 41.3 33.9 106
   Lecturing, education and or supervision of new nurses 9,570 45.0 34.6 36.7 42
   Research 2,325 45.1 33.9 34.2 10
   Other 14,070 47.6 47.0 32.0 54
Total 276,751 44.3 36.3 33.3 1,105
  1. Based on a 38-hour week, hours across all jobs.

The number of nurses employed as nurses in Australia between 2005 and 2009 was estimated to have increased by 13.3%, from 244,360 to 276,751. Between 2005 and 2009, the overall proportion of nurses working 50 hours or more declined, from 6.3% to 5.9%, while the proportion working part-time decreased, from 49.8% to 47.7%.

Age

The average age of employed nurses was 44.3 years (43.1 years for males and 44.5 years for females). Non-clinicians were, on average, slightly older than clinicians (46.4 and 44.1 years, respectively).

The age profile of the nursing population has shifted toward older age groups over recent years. In 1999, the 40–44 years age group included the greatest number of nurses of all the age groups. By 2009, it was the 50–54 years age group that included the most nurses.

Male participation

Although nursing is a predominantly female occupation, the proportion of males has increased slightly. In 2009, males comprised 9.6% of employed nurses, which is up from 7.9% in 2005. The proportion of registered nurses who were male increased (from 8.0% to 9.8%) and the proportion of enrolled nurses who were male increased (from 7.1% to 8.9%) over the same period.

Employment sector

The profile of nurses by employment sector changed little between 2005 and 2009, with around two-thirds of nurses employed in the public sector (65.9% in 2005 and 67.3% in 2009). In 2009, nurses employed in the public sector worked an average of 2.1 hours per week more than nurses employed in the private sector (34.0 and 31.9 hours respectively).

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