More than 400 nursing graduates missing out on jobs in the latest job round has prompted nursing union NZNO to launch a petition calling for jobs for all graduates.
The New Zealand Nurses Organisation petition is asking Minister of Health Tony Ryall to fund a one-year nurse entry to practice (NETP) programme for all new graduate nurses.
It follows ongoing concern in recent years at nursing graduates increasingly struggling to find nursing positions – particularly in supported new graduate programmes – despite workforce projections showing a need to boost the nursing workforce to meet future needs.
Hilary Graham-Smith, NZNO associate professional services manager, said the latest application round for new graduate programme places left 412 new graduates without jobs. Just under a third – 233 of the 645 applicants – were successful in gaining places with a possible 24 other vacancies still to be filled.
“The spin is that in six months to 12 months that they (unemployed new graduates) will have jobs but what we know is that those jobs may well be in unsatisfactory environments where there is insufficient RNs to provide the preceptorship and mentorship that new grads require.”
“I came across a situation the other day at a rest home where all of the RNs – four of them – were new graduates just out last year. And they are already doing night duty on their own in a facility with hospital-level beds with one health care assistant on with them…that’s very scary - and very scary for them.” None of the new graduates were employed on new graduate programmes, which require experienced RNs to be available as preceptors.
Graham-Smith said district health boards needed to move away from a vacancy-driven model so they could offer more new graduate places but the bigger issue was the need for a comprehensive and sustainable workforce plan for nurses.
“We keep talking about that ageing population, the ageing nursing workforce, and the projections around the need for nurses ten years and 15 years out but we are not really doing anything constructive about that.”
She said NZNO backed the call made by the National Nursing Organisations (NNO) to Health Workforce New Zealand for 100 per cent new graduate employment.
Employing new graduates was also a matter of succession planning so new nurses could work alongside the current expert nursing workforce and develop their own skills to ensure there was a replacement workforce when many of today’s nurses starting retiring in ten years time.
Graham-Smith said the petition also followed the main new graduate who write or ring NZNO to share their stories and calling for help.
“They start to lose confidence to get a job in the health sector and start to think of other opportunities …its such a huge waste of investment (if we lose these graduates) and they are a workforce that we are going to need before very long.”