“Nursing has been generally increasing along with health for quite a period of time, but there was a quite spectacular spike between 2020 and 2021, almost inevitably due to all the heavy attention that nursing and other health occupations have been getting over the last 18 months,” Professor Norton said.
The cost of a nursing degree has also been slashed by 45 per cent as part of the Morrison government’s “job-ready graduates” fee changes, potentially pushing up demand.
However, Commonwealth funding per place has also been cut, meaning universities could not simply take on more students to satisfy rising demand.
“From 2020 to 2021, [universities] did increase their offers in nursing, but not by nearly as much as the applications went up,” Professor Norton said. “They’re basically only getting $3950 for every extra nursing student, which is almost definitely not enough to teach them.”
Kate Dahlstrom has wanted to be a nurse for several years and is now juggling her first year of nursing study with working in administration at a Victorian vaccination hub.
Ms Dahlstrom said nursing was attractive because it was flexible, and it would allow her to pursue interests in mental health and paediatrics.
“I’m also really passionate about helping people, knowing that I’m an essential worker, that I am prioritising people as well as helping them,” she said.
Swinburne nursing lecturer Cath Wilson said COVID-19 had raised the profile of the already deeply trusted profession, and students were also taking advantage of cheaper prices.
“I think with the pandemic you can see that people want to know more about what nursing is and what nurses do and how the healthcare system relies on nurses,” Ms Wilson said.
Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation Victorian branch secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick said nursing and midwifery were “the best jobs in the world”.
“You are there across the lifespan from cradle to grave,” she said.
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