Nurses - Older, more experienced and more highly trained

The nursing workforce is now older, more experienced and more highly trained than in the 1980s according to Nursing Labour Force 1993 and 1994, released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

A spokesman for the Institute, Mr John Harding said, 'Total nurse numbers in Australia since the late 1980s have been relatively stable. However the structure of the workforce changed significantly as nurse training moved from hospitals to universities between 1985 and 1993.

'The proportion of nurses aged less than 25 years declined from 33.3% in 1981 to 6.0% in 1994. The nurse workforce has become more highly skilled from additional training, a decline in the employment of the less highly trained enrolled nurses and a corresponding rise in employment of registered nurses. In 1994, 6,588 Australian students completed Bachelor degrees in nursing and a further 3,997 post-basic nursing qualifications.'

Other features of the report included:

  • In 1994 there were 227,966 employed nurses in Australia.
  • Of the 204,748 nurses employed in clinical practice, 33.2% were employed in the areas of medical and surgical practice, followed by 20.2% in gerontology or geriatric nursing.
  • In contrast to other health professions where numbers are relatively low and shortages exist in rural and remote areas, the geographic distribution of nurses is fairly similar to the population as a whole.
  • Enrolled nurses were more likely to work in rural and remote areas than registered nurses and females were more likely to work in these areas than males. In 1994, 25.0% of female registered nurses and 39.7% of female enrolled nurses were working in rural and remote areas compared with 21.4% and 30.2% respectively of males.
  • Male registered nurses worked an average of 39.0 hours per week in 1994 and male enrolled nurses averaged 36.8 hours while for females, registered nurses worked an average of 31.9 hours and enrolled nurses averaged 30.5 hours. This difference was due to the higher proportion of females who worked part-time hours - 49.1% of female registered nurses and 58.2% of female enrolled nurses compared with 13.4% and 27.1% respectively for males.
  • 22.7% of employed nurses were born in overseas countries. Of these, 46.3% were born in the United Kingdom or Ireland and 19.8% were born in Asian countries.

18 April 1997


Further information:John Harding, ph. 02 6244 1153 or 04 1923 9582 (mobile).
For media copies of the report (108pp):Publications Officer, ph. 02 6244 1031 or 02 6244 1044 (fax).
Availability: Check the AIHW for details.