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The characteristics, work patterns and post-registration qualifications of nurses in Victoria are examined in the latest report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).
Nursing labour force, Victoria, 2003, was commissioned and funded by the Victorian Department of Human Services (DHS) to help tackle the State's nursing workforce shortfalls.
Glenice Taylor, Head of AIHW's Labour Force and Rural Health Unit, said that despite an increase of around 5,340 (7.6%) employed nurses in Victoria between 1995 and 2003, the supply of nurses per 100,000 population remained steady.
'While the average weekly hours worked by nurses was the same in both years, the population of Victoria grew by 8.9%, which soaked up the increase in numbers.'
The report documented increases in the proportions of nurses working part-time (from 60.4% in 1995 to 68.4% in 1999) and in those working 45 hours or more (from 8.0% to 9.1%).
'These changes more or less cancelled each other out,' Ms Taylor said.
Of the 75,852 nurses registered in Victoria in 2003, 68,687 were employed in nursing in Victoria. There were over 3,500 nurses not employed in nursing and not looking for nursing work.
'More than 40% of these 3,500 nurses were working in jobs other than nursing. With the right environment conducive to attracting them back to nursing, this group could be a source of skills to help alleviate nursing shortages,' Ms Taylor said.
The report also found that nurses employed in the public sector worked, on average, three hours per week more than their private sector colleagues (33.2 hours compared with 30 hours).
Nurses employed in mental health facilities and developmental disability services worked, on average, longer hours than their colleagues employed in other settings. They were more likely to work more than 45 hours or more per week, and less likely to work part-time.
The distribution of nurses' post-registration qualifications across areas of nursing activity was explored in the report, based on a schema developed by the DHS and AIHW - the first time such an analysis has been attempted.
'This is important for workforce planning to gauge skill supply across the different areas of nursing,' Ms Taylor said.
In 2001, just over half (52.4%) of employed nurses in Victoria held post-registration qualifications, in many cases, more than one. In both that year and in 1997, half of those nurses worked in an area of nursing that directly corresponded with the field of their qualification.
'Conversely, for most areas of specialty practice there are, in fact, more nurses with a relevant postgraduate qualification than are practising in a particular field,' Ms Taylor said.
15 December 2004
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