A State Government subsidy for regional nursing students should be part of a larger campaign to assist South Australia in attracting and retaining long-term professional nursing staff, said Member for Mount Gambier Troy Bell.
The Independent MP put the issue on the State Government’s agenda this week through a two-part motion, requesting a subsidy be established for regional students undertaking placement at metropolitan hospitals.
Currently, regional students have to apply for grants or scholarships to cover the costs of undertaking placement in metropolitan and regional hospitals, which is a requirement of their studies.
However, many had strict eligibility criteria, leaving many students unable to apply.
Mr Bell said the cost of an eight-week placement for a regional student in a metropolitan hospital could reach thousands of dollars in travel and accommodation, whereas grants only returned a small portion of costs.
“Regional nursing students are enduring major financial hurdles to complete their studies and are being disadvantaged by having to fund their own placement, leaving them substantially out-of-pocket,” he said.
“For a nurse, placement is where you develop skills and experience across a range of disciplines and it’s an essential part of completing that study.
“Meanwhile, the employer of a South Australian apprentice or trainee is eligible for an accommodation allowance of $60/night and 30c/km travel allowance when they travel intrastate to study.
“If we want good people to pursue long-term nursing careers in South Australia, we need to support them at every step of their career and remove every roadblock – financial or otherwise.”
Mr Bell highlighted the case of local nurse Belinda Myers, who undertook 16 weeks of placement at metropolitan hospitals in 2018 and was forced to take out a personal loan to cover the ongoing costs of studying, on top of a $20k HECS debt upon graduating.
“Belinda is the perfect example of the kind of skilled, experienced and dedicated nurse we want working in South Australian hospitals, clinics and aged care facilities,” he said.
“Right now, there are students beginning their nursing degrees all over the state and they too, will face these same costs as they complete their studies.
“We should be doing all we can to support students through the completion of their placements, which is why I’m calling on the State Government to implement this subsidy.”
While the state continues to be affected by healthcare staff shortages, Mr Bell said the subsidy should be part of a larger multi-layered campaign, as Victoria continued to attract attention for their own recruitment strategy.
“We’re in the midst of a national jobs shortage and finding qualified health professionals is becoming increasingly difficult,” he said.
“For a student facing significant study and placement costs, to study and retrain for free, plus have your relocation fees covered by the State Government, would be pretty attractive.
“This subsidy is the first step in what I see as a state-wide approach to both training and retaining the best staff for our state. We need to be doing all we can to help support and attract skilled health professionals to live, study and work in South Australia.”