More new nurses than ever in work but 41% still job-hunting

11 February 2015

More graduate nurses have gained new graduate positions than this time last year – but bumper application numbers means 570 would-be nurses are still job hunting. 

But Ministry of Health chief nurse Jane O'Malley says progress as been made in the employment of new graduate nurses with the 868 placed in jobs well up on the 705 at the same time last year but there was still room for improvement. 

The latest Ministry statistics show that 59 per cent (868) of the original 1,481 applicants for places in government-subsidised new graduate programmes had been successful as at 5 February.

This is well up on the 705 placed in NETP (nursing entry to practice) or NESP (mental health) new graduate programmes by late January last year. 

But application numbers were also up 10 per cent on the previous year with the record 1,481 applicants including 220 July graduates applying for the second time and 33 applying for their third time.

The end result is that the job-hunting number still left in the talent pool at 571 (38.5 per cent of applicants) is actually higher than the 551 (41.4 per cent) at roughly the same time last year. About 40 nurses have withdrawn their application and it is not known whether it is because they have found a job in a sector not covered by NETP or NESP (like private surgical hospitals), gone overseas or another reason.

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation launched a campaign and petition last year for the Minister of Health to fund a NETP place for every new graduate nurse as concerns grew that graduates would be lost to nursing despite a looming nursing shortage in future years.

The petition quickly reached 7,000 signatures and on 31 July the then Health Minister Tony Ryall announced funding to increase the number of NETP places by 200 to 1,300 places for 2015 (including mid-year intakes), of which 40 would be targeted for Aged Care. (It is understood that 38 of the 40 aged care positions are currently filled.)

The NZNO petition gained more than 8,000 signatures and was presented to the Minister in mid-August 2014, with the union stating the additional places were welcomed but the organisation still wanted NETP places for all graduates.

O'Malley said in a statement this week that employment prospects for nurses still compare favourably with graduates of many other degrees, with 40–50 per cent having jobs before receiving their state final exam results, 60–70 per cent employed within five months and almost all employed within 12 months.

Last year Ryall also extended the scholarship funding for new graduates working in very low cost access (VLCA) practices for another year, with 25 scholarship places allocated to practices in 2015.