|Migrant Nurse with Masters in Nursing Sells Ice-cream in Australia Despite Nursing Shortage by Peter(m): Fri Nov 2021 10:49am|
Migrant nurses with decades of experience and academic credentials are struggling to join a health system screaming out for talent, with one working at a fast food restaurant to make ends meet as they attempt to get their qualifications registered with the national regulator.
Mamata Sherpa Awasthi is a masters-educated Nepalese nurse and midwife with more than a decade of experience in nursing education, and even wrote some of the books Nepalese university students use in their courses.
She arrived in Perth a year ago on a dependent visa with her husband, who is completing a PhD, and wants to get into nursing in WA.
However, she has been so frustrated by the prohibitive costs of bridging courses – which can soar to more than $15,000 – and the slowness of medical registration body she is considering a similarly expensive but quicker New Zealand registration and transferring that to Australia.
“To gain that money we have to work, but if you work, it’s really difficult to focus on studies,” she said.
Ms Awasthi said her situation was frustrating given the rhetoric from governments about how difficult recruiting medical staff was with international borders closed.
“We really want to help in this pandemic situation but still, it’s very hard,” she said.
“The demand is very high over here because every institution, from hospital to aged care, everyone needs nurses.
“I’ve given all my life in this profession and I feel like, I’m good at it as well ... I think government can make little easier.”
Migrant nurses who want to work in Australia must be registered by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia, with the registration process run by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra).
Nurses from countries such as the UK gain registration with relative ease, but those from countries where qualifications are deemed “relevant but not equivalent” to Australian qualifications must choose to either do a costly bridging course or “outcomes-based assessment” through Ahpra.
“She’s working at a McDonald’s in a night job or something, which doesn’t make sense.”
Professor Jaya Dantas
Those in-person assessments are only held in South Australia and have been sporadic over the past year, which Ahpra has blamed on COVID-19 and border closures.
Ironically, COVID-19 has choked the normal flow of registered nurses into Australia from traditional sources such as the UK and Ireland, and COVID patients themselves put a strain on the day-to-day operations in infected states.
An online petition started two months ago and signed by more than 31,000 people claimed since 2020 only two to three exams had been held, with just 40 international nurses taking part each time.
Petition organisers said there were thousands of migrant nurses willing and able to work in Australia’s struggling hospital system, but bureaucracy was getting in the way.
Curtin University’s Dean International in Health Sciences, Jaya Dantas, said one nurse hopeful from India had been working at a Perth McDonalds despite holding a masters degree.
“She’s working at a McDonald’s in a night job or something, which doesn’t make sense. She’s got a masters degree in nursing and more than 20 years of experience and has worked in busy emergency rooms overseas,” she said.
Professor Dantas said Ahpra and the Commonwealth should offer flexibility to allow nurses to complete their exams and registration requirements in the state they lived.
“It is very unreasonable, and it’s also unfair to qualified people,” she said.
“They don’t mind actually doing the tests, they don’t mind taking the theory test as well as a practical test, but they just need the opportunity to do it.”
These frustrations extended to international students who gained nursing qualifications in Australia but were struggling to get work here because their graduate visas were taking up to nine months to be processed.
“Because the government has set up these processes and registering bodies have set up these processes that are so difficult, that frustrate people and create these bottlenecks,” Professor Dantas said.
A spokeswoman for Ahpra acknowledged there had been delays, but said the current assessment process met the regulator’s obligation to robustly assess migrant nurses who wanted to practice in Australia.
“This is a matter of public safety and ensures a rigorous evidence-based assessment of clinical skills,” she said.
She said Ahpra would continue to schedule assessments despite the ongoing challenges of COVID.
“There are two further exam days scheduled in November 2021 and given the likelihood of government restrictions easing and border openings late in the year, the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia and Ahpra hope to increase the number of [assessment] days in 2022,” she said.
The spokeswoman said 3796 overseas qualified nurses had registration applications granted since March 2020, and there continued to be a year-on-year increase.
She directed questions over whether this met workforce demand to the Commonwealth and state governments.
A Commonwealth Department of Health spokeswoman said the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia acknowledged the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and were looking to increase the number of examinations available when borders open.
“The Australian Department of Health is working with the Board to encourage the urgent restoration of exams to enable nurses to complete their registration requirements and take up vital roles in the health system,” she said.
“The Australian government is also working in collaboration with state and territory governments on a range of short to medium term priorities to address the health workforce challenges of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and living with COVID.”
Source:Sydney Morning Herald
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