Streamline RN recruitment process, says provider

Unless hurdles are removed, the sector will struggle to hit new care minute target, says Whiddon executive.

Regional aged care provider Whiddon is calling on the federal government to reduce the barriers people from overseas must overcome to become qualified registered nurses in Australia.

Challenges to recruit more nurses from overseas include examination costs and a complex and lengthy accreditation process.

Whiddon executive general manager of people and culture Jacky Hopwood said streamlining Australia’s recruitment system and removing unnecessary hurdles would help providers meet the new RN care minute targets.

“Estimates indicate that we require more than 50 permanent full-time RNs between now and October,” she said. “This includes both current vacancies across our homes, and to allow for the impact of the mandated care minute changes for the industry.”

From 1 October, an aged care home’s care minute target will increase from an average of 200 minutes of care per resident per day to 215 minutes – including 44 minutes of RN time.

In February, figures from the Department of Health and Aged Care indicated that the residential aged care sector will be short of almost 6,000 RNs by the new target date. Anticipating providers’ struggles to hit the revised threshold, the department announced last week that it had tweaked that directive saying homes can also meet 10 per cent of the RN target – 4.4 minutes (4 minutes and 24 seconds) – with care time delivered by an enrolled nurse.

Jacky Hopwood

Whiddon currently has 30 overseas RNs working as assistants in nursing as they navigate the system to become qualified in Australia. However, due to cost restraints, not all of them will go on to become Australian accredited RNs. “In some instances, they have chosen to remain as AINs and not commence the relevant steps due to financial reasons,” said Ms Hopwood. “They are unable to support the fees and take the time off work to study and attend the locations for exams.”

It can cost up to $10,000 for an international nurse to become an RN. To lessen the cost, Whiddon is calling on the government to develop a Commonwealth program specifically for nurses, similar to drives designed to attract GPs to regional locations of the country.

“Financial support should be considered given the costs associated with the current process to attract and retain nurses in regional locations,” said Ms Hopwood. “Currently, a lot of these costs are being absorbed by the employers.”

The accreditation process also needs to be shortened and made easier, she said. “In all, it probably takes between two and three years to bring out an overseas nurse before they are finally qualified in Australia.”

Curiously, there is only one examination centre – in Adelaide – where prospective RNs can sit the compulsory Objective Structural Clinical Exam. While there are plans to establish a second examination site in Melbourne, this doesn’t help providers like Whiddon whose facilities are located primarily in regional New South Wales.

“Currently, there is a cap on the number of registrations processed each year and, unfortunately, one additional centre is unlikely to increase this dramatically to keep up with the demand in the centre,” said Ms Hopwood.

Unless more centres are established, there will continue to be an RN backlog across the country she added. “Each state and territory requires their own assessment centre to enable a more efficient registration process for internationally qualified nurses.”

Other recruitment barriers include state initiatives and incentives to entice RNs to regional hospitals. As well as local competition, providers must also compete with international markets, said Ms Hopwood. “We’re not just competing against hospitals in our own regions for staff. Improving and streamlining the process here would help providers like Whiddon compete more effective internationally.”

Comment on the story below. Follow Australian Ageing Agenda on LinkedInX (Twitter) and Facebook, sign up to our twice-weekly newsletter and subscribe to our premium content or AAA magazine for the complete aged care picture.  

Tags: care minutes, Jacky Hopwood, recruitment, rns, whiddon,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *