Victoria’s unique mental health service for nurses and midwives will be expanded across Australia under an Albanese Labor government.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese promised up to $23 million to extend the 16-year-old Nursing and Midwifery Health Program Victoria (NMHPV) as part of health policy announcements made at the ANMF’s Carson Conference Centre on 13 April.
Mr Albanese said Victoria’s NMHPV had been leading the way and a national nurse and midwife health service would provide free, confidential and independent advice, support and referrals for nurses and midwives exhausted and burnt out after two ‘relentless’ years on the pandemic front line.
Victoria’s program is a free, independent and confidential service, provided by nurses and midwives, for nurses and midwives and nursing and midwifery students. It provides face-to-face support to nurses and midwives in Melbourne and regional and rural Victoria with a presence in Ballarat, Bendigo, Geelong and Traralgon.
Nurses and midwives, and nursing and midwifery students, in other states and territories have access to Nurse and Midwife Support’s 24/7 phone help line and online resources.
The Victorian service was modelled on the Victorian Doctors Health Program and was originally established to provide support and rehabilitation to nurses and midwives with an alcohol, drug or mental health issue. The incidence of substance use or mental health issues was no greater in the nursing and midwifery workforce but it was difficult to seek support without risking your registration and employment.
More recently the NMHPV has started providing support and referrals to specialised family violence services for nurses and midwives experiencing family violence.
The Andrews Government provided an additional $600,000 to provide additional support, counselling and referrals for nurses and midwives experiencing stress during the pandemic.
Federal ANMF Secretary Annie Butler said ‘Nurses and midwives are exhausted – they’ve dealt with unrelenting workloads, with scared, and often, very sick patients in hospitals, with and without COVID, who relied on them totally when their relatives couldn’t visit.
‘This has been even more difficult while wearing full PPE, which takes extra time but also makes communication and connection with patients more challenging. They’ve done all this while also caring for our own families and dealing with COVID in their local communities.
‘We know how successful the NMHPV has been for Victorian nurses and midwives, and we have been advocating for its expansion to a national program for many years,’ Ms Butler said.
The NMHPV said the announcement was a ‘a ringing endorsement for the success of the Victorian model and an exciting day for nurses, midwives and students across Australia.’
Nursing and Midwifery Health Program Victoria history
- 2006 – ANMF worked with the Nurses Board of Victoria to establish the independent Nursing health Program Victoria in 2006. The program was funded through nurses’ and midwives’ state registration fees.
- 2010 – the program’s funding became uncertain with the move to national nursing and midwifery registration. Then Victorian health minister Daniel Andrews secured Nurses Board of Victoria assets, worth $1.6 million, to fund the NMHPV service until June 2013 during the transition to national registration. It was expected the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia would extend the program and continue to fund it through a component of registration fees.
- 2012 – despite increased registration fees the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia failed to confirm the extension or funding of the NMHPV. ANMF launched an online petition to save the NMHPV. The Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia extend NMHPV’s funding to 30 June 2014. Funding continues but plans are afoot to replace the service with a phone line and a website.
- 2017 – then health minister Jill Hennessy announces the Andrews Government ends seven years of funding uncertainty and announces it will provide ongoing funding for the important service
- 2020 – then health minister Jenny Mikakos announces additional funding totally $600,000 to enable the NMHPV to expand supports for nurses and midwives impacted by the pressures of the pandemic
- 2022 – the Andrews Government 2022-23 budget includes an additional $2.48 million over four years for the NMHPV to provide further mental health support for the Victorian nursing and midwifery workforce