Is there a nursing shortage in Australia?

According to media reports in recent months, the Australian nurse shortage needs urgent attention – with dwindling numbers attributed to: 

  • pandemic-related burnout causing nurses to leave the profession 
  • travel restrictions impacting the number of overseas nurses working in Australia on skilled migration visas 
  • the reallocation of nursing staff to COVID-19 testing centres and vaccination clinics 
  • reduced student enrolments in nursing courses 

Anecdotal evidence suggests the pandemic may have exacerbated an existing nurse shortage in critical care. However, the extent to which the pandemic has impacted total nursing staff numbers on a national scale remains unclear.  

Despite this uncertainty, one fact is clear about Australia’s nursing workforce: their effort and dedication in a time of unprecedented turmoil was extraordinary.  

In the post-pandemic world, nurses will face different challenges. Technology, innovative practices and an ageing population are likely major factors. On the upside, these challenges present opportunities for nurses with advanced skills. 

If you’re considering taking the next step in your nursing career, here is our guide to the industry's current state, its projected growth, and the skills you’ll need to succeed. 

Are nurses in demand in Australia? 

The latest data from the National Skills Commission (NSC) suggests that nurses are in demand in Australia. A recent NSC report states that “all Midwifery and Nursing Professional occupations are projected to have moderate future demand.” 

Moreover, the most recent State of Australia’s skills report published by the NSC shows that registered nurses were the leading professional occupation for growth between 2000 and 2020. This growth represented an increase of 89.6 per cent. 

Registered nurses are second only to aged and disabled carers in the top ten Australian jobs projected to grow the most by 2025. 

What’s more, the NSC’s employment projections for November 2021–2026 forecast a growth of: 

  • 26.5% for health and welfare services managers (including nursing clinical directors) 
  • 16.5% for nurse educators and researchers 
  • 23.1% for nurse managers 
  • 21.6% for midwives 
  • 13.9% for registered nurses (including nurse practitioners) 
  • 1.3 % for enrolled and mothercraft nurses 
  • 16% for university lectures and tutors 

Regarding an Australian nursing shortage, the NSC data indicates that “six per cent of Midwifery and Nursing Professional occupations were identified as being in shortage” as of 30 June 2021. 

Woman lying in bed being cared for by nurses and doctor. Medical equipment at bedside used for treating senior woman in hospital.

Seize the opportunities 

The latest industry data shows that the need for nurses with advanced skills has never been higher.  

And it’s a trend that’s likely to continue into the near future, considering that Australia’s ever-evolving healthcare system is under pressure from: 

  • resource constraints 
  • policy reform 
  • technological change 
  • an ageing population with multiple comorbidities 

Nurses need to be ready to step up and take advantage of these opportunities. That’s why advancing your nursing career is more important than ever before.  

By investing in your career development now, you’ll be able to get ahead and be first in line for leadership and advanced practice roles such as: 

  • Clinical nurse specialist 
  • Clinical nurse educator 
  • Clinical nurse consultant 
  • Nurse unit manager 

Not only can postgraduate nursing education help further your career, but it will also give you the skills to improve patient outcomes through evidence-based practice, judgement, and reasoning. A Master of Advanced Nursing practice is a popular course for nurses who want to step into change-making leadership roles.  

A 2016 survey of 568 Australian registered nurses found that they believed postgraduate education in nursing practice: 

  • improves knowledge 
  • increases confidence in clinical decision making 
  • enhances careers  
  • improves critical thinking 
  • improves clinical skill 
  • increases job satisfaction 

A group of four healthcare professionals, dressed in scrubs, stride purposefully through a well-lit corridor in a healthcare facility.

Upskill with UTS Online’s Master of Advanced Nursing 

The Master of Advanced Nursing (Online) course is designed for nurses who want to drive better outcomes for person-centred care.  

During the course, you will develop the advanced skills, knowledge and confidence to deliver: 

  • Clinical excellence 
  • Healthcare leadership 
  • Equitable health care for all 
  • Effective communication 
  • Innovative solutions 

By upskilling with Australia’s #4 ranked university for academic reputation in nursing and midwifery, according to the QS World University Rankings 2023, you can be confident that you're learning the most up-to-date and in-demand skills. 

Moreover, the 100% online study mode has been designed with busy nurses in mind and enables you to study when it works best for you. Units are delivered through an innovative learning platform you can access anywhere you have an internet connection. This means you can more easily balance online study with shift work. 

Specialisation pathways for the Master of Advanced Nursing include:  

  • Acute Care (major) 
  • Chronic and Complex Care (major) 
  • Quality and Safety (major) 
  • Critical Care (major) 
  • Mental Health (major) 

Throughout your studies, and until you graduate, you’ll have a dedicated Student Success Advisor on hand to help you stay on track. The academic staff are invested in your progress and can answer any of your course-related questions and offer invaluable career mentoring advice. 

While the Master of Advanced Nursing course is fully online, you’ll still gain clinical skills. Assessments are highly practical and often applied to your workplace.  

To enter the course, you must be employed in a healthcare setting, as you will need to use your clinical environment to complete subject activities and assessment tasks. 

A diverse group of nurses in a modern office setting, engaged in collaborative discussions and working together on digital devices. The atmosphere is vibrant and energetic, reflecting a dynamic and innovative medical environment.

Take the next step in your nursing career 

The future of health care is defined by constant change. Career success will be determined by the skills you have and your ability to respond well to new challenges, new technology, and new work environments. 

UTS Online’s Master of Advanced Nursing gives you the specialist skills and knowledge you need to take the next step in your career. 

To learn more, contact our Student Enrolment Advisors on 1300 477 423.