Nursing is on the increase

The aged care sector makes up the largest proportion of Australia’s growing nursing and midwifery workforce, according to a new AIHW report.


Above: Jewish Care nurse, Francois Adam, with resident, Mindla Horowicz. Photo is courtesy of Peter Haskin

By Yasmin Noone

More enrolled nurses work in the aged care sector than any other part of the health system, according to new figures released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) last week.

The new AIHW report also shows that the nursing and midwifery workforce is continuing to grow but not as quickly as Australia’s population, regardless of recent industry-wide wages campaigns to retain and recruit nursing staff.

The report, Nursing and midwifery workforce 2011, states that the total number of nurses and midwives registered in Australia last year was 326,669, marking an almost seven per cent increase in figures since 2007.

However, the workforce supply decreased by 1.3 per cent from 1,095 to 1,081 full-time equivalent nurses and midwives per 100,000 population based on a 38-hour week, between 2007 and 2011.

“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,” said AIHW spokesperson Vicki Bennett.

The clinical area with the largest number of workers in the nursing and midwifery industry in 2011 was aged care (40,443), which also had the highest proportion of enrolled nurses (41.5 per cent).

The average age of an aged care nurse, according to the report, was 48.5 years old, while more than 53.9 per cent of aged care nurses aged over 50 years (please note: the report groups enrolled and registered nurses under the one category of “employed nurses” and does not differentiate between enrolled and registered nurses when presenting these figures- updated 10.37am 06/07/2012).

Ms Bennett said the nursing and midwifery workforce, as a whole, is 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 per cent to 38.6 per cent.”

Only 7.4 per cent of the aged care nursing workforce is male; 58.5 per cent are registered nurses; and almost 73 per cent of aged care nurses work in a clinical capacity.

According to the report, an aged care nurse works around 32 hours a week compared to the nursing and midwifery professional workforce average (which includes all nurses and midwifes throughout the country like pediatric, rehabilitation and disability, mental health nurses and more) of 32.8 hours.

This industry-wide total was reported to have dropped from the 33.3 hour average in 2007.

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.

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia’s health and welfare.

Tags: aihw, en, ens, midwifery, nurses, nursing, rn, rns,

2 thoughts on “Nursing is on the increase

  1. In relation to Ms Noone’s article on ‘Nursing is on the increase’, I think it is important to understand that there is a difference between an enrolled nurse and a registered nurse. The enrolled nurse is only enrolled with a requirement that they work under the direction of a registered nurse. There is a very different scope of practice for enrolled and registered nurses. They are effectiviely two groups of nursing staff with very different levels of education and professional responsibilities.
    The decline in the employment of nursing staff, both enrolled and registered, in residential aged care has impacted on the clinical and nurssing care provided to resiidents.
    Please do not cloud the issue by overstating the figures by including enrolled nurse hours in the above ‘aged care nurse’ working in aged care.

  2. “The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia’s health and welfare”.
    Then why then are the stats skewed? Yvonne Burns is correct in stating that the difference between the two levels of nursing is profound and needs to be taken into account. By placing all nurses under one banner does not give a clear indication of the level expertise available in the aged care section.

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