Members understandably had a lot of questions when the Andrews Government announced its plan to grow the nursing and midwifery workforces by offering significant financial support to those commencing undergraduate and postgraduate studies in either 2023 or 2024.
The Department of Health has now provided further details to help answer those questions.
What is the plan again?
The $270 million plan, announced in August, is designed to help ten thousand domestic nursing and midwifery undergraduates – whether fresh out of high school or mature age students – to overcome financial barriers during their course.
All new domestic students enrolling in a Commonwealth-supported nursing or midwifery course in Victoria in 2023 and 2024 will receive funding of up to $9000 to assist with covering their three-year course costs. These students will then be eligible to receive a further $7,500 if they work in Victorian public health services for two years following graduation.
What about current undergraduates?
Scholarships are available to new enrolments in 2023 and 2024 only. Current final-year undergraduates may be able to access funding for postgraduate study in 2024 in specialty areas such as intensive care, emergency, paediatrics and cancer care (see below).
On Wednesday 9 November 2022, Premier Daniel Andrews announced an expansion of the support being offered to nursing and midwifery students to include paying a $5,000 bonus to any graduating nurses and midwives in 2022, 2023 and 2024 if they commit to working in the public hospital system for two years.
The package also provides more than $20 million to support graduates to transition to practice in our public health services. This includes funding 475 nurses to take on the roles of supporting students and those returning to the professions.
In July 2022, the Andrews Government also announced funding to expand the ANMF-initiated student employment program for registered undergraduate students of nursing/midwifery (RUSON/M), allowing more students to be paid to work in nursing and midwifery while they study.
Victoria is the only state in the country with such a student employment model in its public hospitals. The program has proved enormously successful since it was introduced in 2016.
What about existing nurses and midwives?
In addition to the scholarships for undergraduate nursing and midwifery students, the Andrews Government will also provide extensive support for existing nurses and midwives.
Funding to support enrolled nurses to become registered nurses
Funding worth an average of $11,000 is available for current enrolled nurses employed in the public sector who wish to become registered nurses.
Health services will be responsible for applying to the department for the scholarship funding on behalf of their interested ENs. Interested ENs should speak with their manager about the opportunity as soon as possible, as the first cohort deadline for health services to apply for funding is 2 December 2022.
Eligible ENs will also need to apply directly through VTAC or to an appropriate education provider (as required) for their preferred, approved diploma-to-degree conversion courses. To meet the timelines for the 2023 academic year, interested candidates should apply as soon as possible.
Funding to support nurses and midwives to re-enter the workforce
Funding is also available to provide scholarships for 225 nurses and midwives per annum to return to practice in public health services via the refresher pathway.
The funding will be paid to health services to offer the refresher programs. For each place in a program, health services will receive a total of $15,000 – of which, $10,000 is to provide a scholarship to each candidate accepted into the refresher program. This scholarship money can be used by the candidate to cover the costs of program participation, such as living expenses while completing clinical placements.
Scholarships for nurses and midwives to complete postgraduate studies in specialty areas
Scholarships worth an average of $10,000 are available for current public-sector nurses and midwives to complete postgraduate studies in specialty areas of high clinical need such as intensive care, emergency, midwifery, aged care and oncology (mental health was already funded annually from the 2021–2022 budget).
The scholarships will be managed by health services, who will allocate them to students. Students can use the scholarships to cover the out-of-pocket course fees for the postgraduate qualification.
You have until January 2023 to discuss with and confirm your participation – and the value of your out-of-pocket course fees – with your health service.
Scholarships to support nurse practitioner candidates
ANMF is particularly excited about having the nation’s only statewide plan to support the employment and growth of nurse practitioners. The plan will fund 100 nurse practitioner candidates’ education costs and provides funding for public hospital nurse practitioner positions. It is an important recognition of our most senior clinical nurses and will create a much-needed career path.
Sixteen new NP roles will also be offered salary support for 2023.
Public health services will administer the funding to their employees. If you’re interested in becoming a candidate, you should speak with your health service ASAP.
What else should I know?
The package also provides funding to support 150 current nurses to become midwives through an extension of the Post Graduate Midwifery (Employment Model) Program, and more than $20 million to offer more support to graduates and those who have competed the refresher programs as they transition to working in our health services – ensuring they have access to clinical educators and preceptors.
The Branch believes these initiatives will make a significant improvement to the workforce in the long-term. In the immediate future, it will ‘support undergraduate students of nursing and midwifery to complete their course and become working nurses and midwives,’ Branch Secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick said. ‘We know that of those that leave, around 25 per cent leave because of financial burden that they simply can’t meet.’
Will it help the private healthcare system?
All undergraduate students will receive the financial support. When they graduate, students will need to make their own decision about whether to seek employment in the public or the private system, but because this is a recruitment and retention package for the public system there are extra benefits for those who work in the public system for at least two years.
Beyond those two years it is up to the individual nurse or midwife where they seek employment.
What about aged care?
All students will receive $9000 while they study, regardless of whether they graduate into the public or private system, or into aged care. Those who go on to work in the public aged care sector for at least two years will be able to access the additional $7500.
ANMF course fee grants
In addition to financial supports offered by the government, ANMF (Vic Branch) members continue to have access to ANMF financial grants to support them in completing specialist post-registration or post-graduate nursing or midwifery education. The fee grants, now in their fifth year, cover up to 80 per cent of tuition costs.
ANMF (Vic Branch) Council awarded more than $1.3 million to members in the latest round of course fee grants, and has given out over $4 million since the fee grants began in 2018.
Applications for the 2022–23 fee grants will open in January 2023. Learn more.