With a growing number of students turning to the lucrative sector to pay their way through college, there is now a shortage of qualified nursing students in Australia.
The National Council for Nursing Education (NCNE) estimates that there are just 4,400 qualified nursing graduates in Australia currently.
But with a growing trend for students to pay cash-for-services in order to study, there are also increasing calls to reform the current system that places such heavy restrictions on how students can pay for their education.
The NCCNE, which represents the profession, is calling for a new model to be introduced that allows students to access the funding they need to study.
It is part of a larger drive to improve the sector’s financial sustainability, which is a key plank of the government’s 2020 Budget.
In the report, released on Tuesday, the NCCNEE argues that a more flexible funding model will allow students to complete their studies with a less costly option to fund their studies.
“A model where students can access full-time funding through their degree without having to complete the course at home, or a model where they can use their degree for a range of non-traditional and self-supported activities, would help to increase the number of qualified graduates in the sector,” said the report.
“This would also be beneficial to the profession and the state as it would allow more qualified graduates to enter the workforce, improve access to education for those with disabilities and improve the sustainability of the sector.”
It is not just about money, but the quality of the students themselvesAs part of its push for a more sustainable sector, the government has also set out plans to allow more students to pursue nursing studies in a range, including:Bachelor of Nursing degree: $30,000 (NZ$39,000) and higher, and for up to five yearsThe Bachelor of Nursing Certificate (BNC): $45,000, for up for three years and up to six years (NZ $72,000).
The BNC is also for students with less than a degree in nursing, and is available to students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The BNC was introduced in March 2016, but has not been fully rolled out yet.
“We are also looking at ways to make it easier for students from poorer backgrounds to pursue their studies,” the NCEE said.
“While we understand the importance of supporting students who are disadvantaged in our communities, we believe that there is a much bigger need to improve access for students who otherwise have a greater financial ability to access and complete their degrees.”
The report also notes that there have been concerns around the quality and accessibility of the nursing schools.
In some cases, there has been a lack of nursing education courses available at some nursing schools or a lack in the quality, or the availability of nursing courses.
In one instance, a nursing school in Sydney was unable to provide a student with the required course, according to the NCAE.
“Nursing schools are still struggling to provide the nursing education they need,” the report said.
The NCAEA is also calling for increased funding to be provided for higher education, which the government said would help boost nursing schools’ financial sustainability.
“With a higher cost of living and a growing demand for nursing students, it is critical that the government provides more support for higher-income students, including greater funding for tertiary education,” the release said.
The government has previously stated that it is investing $300 million into nursing education, with $300m being earmarked for tertiaries.
The report noted that the amount of funding allocated for tertiers was lower than the $1.2 billion allocated to all levels of education in the 2016-17 Budget.
With funding for nursing education still lacking, the NCNE is calling on the government to provide more funding for higher levels of tertiary schools.
“As more and more people turn to nursing as a way to pay the bills and provide for their future, more funding is needed to make sure nursing education is sustainable,” the NCNEE said.