Nurse. Come quick. It's an emergency! Australia needs you
GENERATION EMIGRATION:Australian healthcare companies are coming to Ireland to recruit Irish nurses, with the promise of better pay and prospects - and that famous Australian lifestyle, writes CIARA KENNY
Uprooting from her home in Kildare and moving to Australia at 37 years of age with two young daughters was not how Michelle Roche saw her life panning out when she entered nursing, a career then associated with long-term stability and steady career progression.
Roche currently holds a permanent job as a psychiatric nurse with the Health Service Executive, but with recent cuts to pay and allowances, the introduction of the universal social charge, reduced overtime, and a recruitment embargo in the HSE that prevents promotion up the pay scale, she says her family are “barely able to pay the bills” any more.
“There is no opportunity for promotion, no incentive to work harder, no funding for courses, or opportunities to further your career here in any way,” she says. “I was an acting clinical nurse manager for a while with all the added responsibility for very little money. It was very disheartening to know there was no chance of being made permanent in that post.”
The Australian healthcare system is currently experiencing a critical shortage of nurses and midwives, especially in the areas of psychiatric care and midwifery. To fill the gap, health boards are increasingly looking overseas, with a preference for Irish-trained nurses. Two representatives from New South Wales Health will arrive in Ireland next week to recruit for 70 nursing and midwifery vacancies, and Roche has decided to apply.
Three young nurses Roche worked with are already “living the dream” in Lakeview near Belmont in New South Wales (NSW), reporting back on the great working conditions, training opportunities and better salaries on offer.
Shortage of healthcare workers
Health Workforce Australia, an advisory authority to the Australian government, has predicted a shortfall of more than 110,000 nurses across the country in the next 12 years.
NSW Health is experiencing the biggest current crisis in staffing, with more than 800 nursing and midwifery vacancies currently advertised on its website ( jobs.nsw.gov.au). Nurses with specialist training and experience in intensive care, emergency, obstetrics, midwifery, operating suite and mental health are in particularly high demand, in both city hospitals and rural community-care centres.
According to figures from the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship, more than 700 Irish nurses have been sponsored by healthcare employers for 457-visas since 2007, with thousands more employed as permanent Australian residents, or on short-term contracts while travelling on working holiday visas. Ireland ranks fifth in terms of the number of foreign nurses employed by nationality.
“They love Irish nurses, because of the high standard of training, and because they are English speaking,” says former senator Margaret Cox, who has been helping to recruit Irish nurses for NSW Health for the past 12 years as managing director of the ICE Group recruitment agency.
“The healthcare systems in the two countries are quite similar, and in addition to that, the personalities of the Irish nurses go down very well with patients and staff. They have a very ‘can-do’ attitude, which is combined with caring and kindness.”
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation claimed last month that up to three quarters of the 1,500 nurses who were recently granted registration in Ireland will be “forced to emigrate” to find permanent employment because of the complete freeze on recruitment in place since July.