CQ nurse says ‘thousands’ like her can’t find jobs
A Central Queensland nurse says she and "thousands" of others cannot get jobs because of a lack of entry positions and insufficient opportunities for further training in the region.
The resident of 30 years, married with children and a home, wished to remain anonymous to "protect the very slight chance" of her employment.
She graduated from CQUniversity with a Bachelor of Nursing last year as a mature-age student with the goal of helping people in her hometown.
"My degree did not come easy to me," she said.
"I was not eligible for any government incentives and as such, I worked full-time while studying in order to ensure that my family remained supported while I pursued my lifelong dream of becoming a nurse."
The self-titled "unemployable nurse" said the necessity of a graduate program was "drummed into students", and that without one, getting a job would prove extremely difficult.
"My town only has one hospital, and we were asked to list preferences," she said about her CQ Health's graduate program application.
"I preferred my local hospital first and further west as my second preference.
"I was willing to work wherever I needed to, if at the completion of my graduate program, I would be eligible to apply for work back in my local town, at my little local hospital.
"As you could imagine, it felt like years waiting for a phone call."
But there were few positions available and she was unsuccessful.
She said she was stuck because of an "unwritten rule that without a graduate program we are nothing".
Private hospitals hours away from her home would only take locals applicants, nursing homes did not want to employ recent graduates, and she did not have the experience for any registered nurse positions or for a government job.
"As a local graduate, I do not want to relocate from my area in order to obtain work, although I would if it meant I could return to my hometown and work in the hospital where I have invested over 1000 hours of unpaid practical time," she said.
"I feel as though regardless of how hard I worked during these hours, my time and efforts are wasted as I am now the unemployable nurse."
She said more funding was needed for new nurses to continue their education without having to completely up-root their established lives.
"We are losing talent in our local town because of this," she said.
"People are moving away, and why wouldn't they? They can move to the city, live the city life, and work in their dream jobs.
"I feel I am stuck between staying in the town that I love where I have raised my children in my own home, and my dream job, because while I stay local, I will have no opportunity to achieve my dream.
"I am plagued with the thought that I have wasted my time with this degree. I have a piece of paper that is useless without the opportunity to use it.
"I hear daily on the news about the demand for nurses, but do not believe it."
Central Queensland Hospital and Health Service Nursing and Midwifery executive director Sue Foyle said although a graduate year with further mentorship was not a requirement for employment, it was a "highly-recommended support strategy for novice registered nurses".
"CQ Health employs multiple cohorts of graduate nurses every year, across hospitals in the region, including Rockhampton, Gladstone, Emerald, Biloela and smaller facilities," she said.
"In small rural hospitals particularly, we require registered nurses to have a minimum of 12 months' work experience because in small facilities our staff usually work autonomously with minimal supervision, and skills and experience are required to ensure patient safety is maintained.
"The number of graduates employed is limited by a number of factors, including budget, staff numbers, demand for services and capacity within the hospital for appropriate support."
She said that this year, CQ Health shortlisted 109 graduate registered nurse applicants for 65 positions.
Of those 65, all but three were local candidates, and all were from Queensland.
Ms Foyle said there were 15 fewer graduate positions offered in 2021 compared with last year because of "good retention rates of graduates from previous years, meaning limited vacancies for graduate positions".
"CQ Health offers many pathways for nurses, and our graduates are highly valued members of our clinical teams," she said.