Legislative Council: Tuesday, February 07, 2023


Nursing Workforce Strategy

In reply to the Hon. T.A. FRANKS ().3 November 2022).

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector): The Minister for Health and Wellbeing has advised:

Nurses and midwives are the backbone of our public health system; therefore, it is vital that we do everything we can to provide opportunities to equip them with the right skills, knowledge, and values they need to practise confidently and safely in their profession. This includes ensuring that nurses and midwives meet the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia's (NMBA) registration standard for recency of practice. This registration standard requires that nurses and midwives maintain an adequate connection with, and recent practice in the profession since qualifying for, or obtaining registration.

To demonstrate recency of practice, nurses and midwives must provide evidence to the NMBA that they have practised for a period equivalent to a minimum of 450 hours, within the past five years. Former nurses or midwives seeking to return to the workforce will be expected to take steps to ensure they are educated, trained, competent and confident to practice in their profession. This may include undertaking an NMBA-approved clinical re-entry to practice program or a period of supervised practice to demonstrate competence in their profession.

The government is also implementing workforce strategies to attract and retain nurses to work in the public health system. SA Health offers a broad range of nursing and midwifery scholarships that are targeted to support frontline nurses and midwives, currently working in the public health system, to advance their clinical skills and knowledge in much-needed clinical specialty areas, such as rural nursing, mental health, intensive care, emergency care, renal care, aged care and midwifery.

These targeted education programs and associated training scholarships, demonstrate our government's commitment to increasing our workforce capability and capacity within the public health system across the metropolitan, and more importantly, regional health services.

The government is also working to keep our nursing and midwifery graduates in our state. We have over 2,000 nursing and midwifery students completing their undergraduate studies across our three South Australian universities at the end of 2022, who will be ready for employment once they have gained their registration with the NMBA.

In 2023, we will double our employment intakes to keep these newly graduated registered nurses and midwives in our state. The government has committed $25 million to support an additional 600 new graduate nurses and midwives to undertake a new graduate program, and to strengthen the on-ground support, facilitation, and clinical mentorship model. This strategy will help the state to build a sustainable workforce.

The government has completed a ballot process for a new Nursing and Midwifery (South Australian Public Sector) Enterprise Agreement 2022. The ballot closed on 18 November 2022 and received a 78 per cent majority 'Yes' vote of eligible employees who voted. Subject to approval by the South Australian Employment Tribunal, the new agreement will take effect from 1 October 2022 with a nominal expiry of 31 July 2025. It will include renumeration and incentives to attract and retain nurses and midwives working in our public hospitals. These incentives include annual increases in wages and allowances effective from 1 January 2023, 2024, and 2025; two one-off payments to be paid retrospectively from 1 October 2022 and on 1 October 2023; and fortnightly carparking cap to reward and recognise those staff already working in the system. The new agreement will also demonstrate our commitment to implement strategies for improving safe staffing levels, and a 10-point plan for addressing workplace violence across all public health sites.