NZNO's Blog

It’s not a skill shortage, it’s a planning deficiency


600px-New_Zealand_on_the_globe_(New_Zealand_centered).svgThe Immigration Department’s “Skill-shortage list” is a list of occupations that are in short supply in New Zealand. The list means that would-be migrants with those particular skills are given preference over migrants whose skills are not on the list. It seems like a great idea and a good way to ensure that New Zealand’s skills needs are met.

Unfortunately, it is sometimes used for the benefit of employers, not the NZ workforce as a whole.

NZNO is constantly responding to consultation requests from Immigration NZ as DHBs and other health providers, especially within the aged care sector, push for nursing and health care assistant roles to be added to the skills shortage list.

Recently, Hawkes Bay DHB, Southern DHB and Capital and Coast DHB have all applied to have registered nurse and midwife positions added to the skills shortage list, and to renew their accredited employer status so they can fast track offshore recruitment of nurses and midwives.

We absolutely reject that the DHBs need to recruit nurses and midwives offshore while there are large numbers of nursing and midwifery graduates still seeking employment.

As a country we need to start addressing the root causes of recruitment and retention difficulties and plan for a sustainable, home grown workforce.

It is not fair that we continue to educate and train nurses and then deny them employment while continuing to recruit offshore. Only 61 percent of last year’s nursing graduates have found placements in nurse entry to practice positions and only half of the country’s DHBs are offering placements in the second advanced choice of employment (ACE) round.

Overseas recruitment processes are long and expensive and often include a six week competence assessment programme. Surely, that time and money would be better spent on supporting new graduates into practice, and facilitating internal appointments with training and education that supports expanded practice and rewarding career pathways for nurses and midwives.

NZNO recognises that demand for nurses is increasing, as New Zealand’s population and the nursing workforce ages, but recruiting from overseas to fill workforce gaps is not the answer.

22 thoughts on “It’s not a skill shortage, it’s a planning deficiency

  1. If nursing conditions improved more kiwis would stay in the profession.

  2. Totally agree. What about all us new graduates from last year that still do not have jobs. I know ‘new’ graduate nurses who finished 10 months ago who still do not have positions, and its not for lack of trying, and its not because they aren’t brilliant nurses. Many people are quick to blame the training institutions for ‘pushing too many through’, but this is far from the truth, we KNOW we have an aging workforce and an aging population, that we already have a nursing ‘shortage’ and that this shortage is only going to continue to grow. If you are not prepared to invest in the future of nursing now, what do you think is going to happen in the future? I understand that many roles called for ‘experienced’ nurses, but how are new graduates meant to get that experience if nobody will give them a break? What happens when our older nurses retire and all of a sudden all we have are new graduates with no experience because nobody has been coming up in the ranks behind them? While I would never begrudge any of them a job, recruiting overseas nurses is OBVIOUSLY and band-aid. Wake up and smell the coffee Health Workforce NZ!!!

    • Good work B, pointing out the main issue, there is a gap where NZ is lacking competent and proficient, the solution, EMPLOY new grads who are all eager to continue to study while they work, and never get outdated or exhausted by change. Old nurses have their value, but they need to earn their respect too

      • There is not a gap of proficient nurses. There are nurses from all ranges of experience from ne grad to junior yo senior nurses. Not just old and new grad. The attitude that old nurses need to earn respect is really rude. Old or even intermediate nurses have done some hard yatds. The training was more hardcore and they have made process changes and quality and risk changes throughout their practices. It would be most appropriate for new grads to respect the knowledge that older nurses can impart and teach those with litthe experience. Sitting in a lecture theatre and writing essays is one thing but practice is a different world. Sadly curriculum changes and class size means new nurses have had minimal practice like we did. Every semester at leasrmt 1-2 acute wards we worked in. Taking the right attitude in the first part will perhaps set you and other junior nurses up to learn and actually land a position long term. A bad attitude gets you nowhere in nursing. You need to be open to learning and the best way is to learn from those who are experienced and willing to use their time to teach. You need to become a sponge. Something to think about…

      • I don’t know one New Graduate nurse who has that attitude towards older nurses. I certaintly don’t. Older nurses are full of a wealth of knowledge and experience. While I would have liked more practical during my training, we still had to rack up 1500hrs and you are expected to be functioning as a fully fledged nurse on your final placement and you are judged against the same competencies as an RN. Training is DIFFERENT but not ‘more hardcore’, getting your Bachelor’s is blimmin hard work. The reality is we DO have an aging population who ARE going to retire at some point, and at the moment we are not fostering the future of nursing.

      • Please excuse the spelling errors- fingers missing the keys on the mobile!

      • B – the comment was directed at ‘Ellie” who stated that ‘ old nurses have their value but they need to earn their respect too” it was not a blanket comment. ‘old nurses’ have done some hard yards, and have a lot of wisdom to impart to those who are newer to the profession. Every nurse has to sit state – i dont begrudge the hard work it takes to get there. But to make that sort of statement about those more knowledgeable, and who mentor new grads is rude and the bad attitude we dont need in Nursing. We are all here to support each other no matter the age or experience. New Grad nurses have a lot to offer with new ways to think about things and do things – just as older nurses have a wealth of experience to impart. its not a them and us situation. There is no gap between competent and proficient nurses as stated by Ellie. it is a shame there are not enough places but this is not a new thing – 11 years ago there were 24 places and 200 applicants. nothing has changed – and something needs to. BUT not all new grads are suitable for some programmes, and there should not be a guaranteed place for 100% Like any job the best, and most proficient are shortlisted for jobs. It is a fierce competition and unfortunately some will miss out. in my own class there were a handful of less than competent graduates who were unsafe in their scope – and that is why they didnt get a place. The maths speaks for itself – more students taken on by institutes of training than are jobs available. From the get go the odds have always been against us. Nursing council can regulate this – and we can work together to support nurses being nurses.

      • I agree that her sentiment wasn’t a helpful one and that we are all in this together. I do think that the new grad issue has got significantly worse though. We are dealing with a large volume of applicants. The ACE recruitment system fails in so many respects- its literally a computer algorithm that decides people’s futures.. you are ranked and given a grade for everything..from your grades to you cover letter to your cv to your references. Its all a numbers game. I have been shortlised through ACE twice, I was an A+ student, had fantastic references, interviews went perfectly and still no position…and then you get an email saying there’s nobody they wouldn’t have employed but they just don’t have enough positions. Its far more about funding than the ability of an individual nurse.

      • totally agree. Not much knowledge about the ACE programme – seems no different to the New Grad selection. Just keep trying – apply for everything and be open to new ideas. Something has to come along. I totally get it as mentioned as a nurse of 11 years I am struggling to get a permanent position. Im not a junior anymore and plenty of experience – there are just no roles out there. there really aren’t – from new grad right through, position availability is minimal. Where there was once a shortage and migrants brought in for the gap – that shortage was over a long time ago. its a dog eat dog world. where there were plenty of jobs for experienced nurses and new grads – they are so limited we have nurses working in unrelated areas or going overseas, such a waste of NZ talent and ability. I would hope Nursing Council would step up and sort something!

  3. can anyone tell me when was the last time nurses got a pay increase that matched or bettered the increases in cost of living since the previous pay rise? Has nursing gone back to being a calling and not a proffession? What has happened to pay equity? do we get paid on a par with police and firemen? I heard someone say a while back that with imported nurses joining unions our bargaining power is lost because alot of overseas nurses are too afraid to stand up and be militant.

  4. I Absoloutely agree that New Zealand Nurses and Midwives should be given priority over overseas recruiting. That said, when there is such a deficit, purely employing new grads would leave the skills mix short and unsafe. There is a lot more learning takes place once qualified, to enhance the basic skills that are learnt at university and on clinical placement.

    We should be thankful for the overseas Drs, nurses and midwives employed within the DHB’s. If they all suddenly upped and left, the New Zealand Healthare system would crumble.

    There needs to be a healthy balance

    • I agree employing purely new grads would leave the skill mix short and unsafe- but this is entirely my point- if we don’t invest in new graduates NOW while we still have our older more experienced nurses what happens when they retire and their haven’t been the newer nurses working up the ranks behind them- how long can we continue to plug the gap? I absolutely welcome overseas nurses- but I don’t think it is fair to continue employing them while ignoring the issues in our own workforce. I’m not saying that all older nurses are going to jump ship all at once, but surely this has to be a consideration? I don’t know any new grads who are naive enough to think that so much learning begins doesn’t once you leave the classroom- but its also incredibly disheartening to work really hard and gain a bachelor of nursing, know your profession is on the ‘skills shortage list’ and not have your govt prepared to invest in your future and the future of nursing.

    • So the answer there is, between the “they are inexperienced” and the “they will upskill once employed” is simple. EMPLOY the new graduates, and make them our skilled workforce, stop forcing them overseas!

  5. I agree that nurses should be taken off the skills shortage list. It is quite demoralising sometimes to look around and see the number of senior nurse positions in particular that have been filled from overseas, when, in most cases, there are New Zealand nurses with equal skills and qualifications. However, I think we need to be clear that many NZNO members are foreign nurses, and they should not be made to feel as though they are not wanted. We also need to remember that in some areas – aged care is a good example – there are employers who recruit from overseas simply because they have a more easily exploited workforce. It is not unheard of for nurses from overseas to take up a job in New Zealand, find themselves thousands of dollars in debt to a conscienceless employment agency or employer, and even to be asked to hand their passport in.

  6. I agree New Zealand Nurses should be employed ahead of overseas nurses. However lets not forget there was a time about 18-20 years ago where there was a shortage of NZ trained nurses and we were dependent on overseas nurses, who now new grads will also be dependent on. In these replies the term ‘old nurses’ is very unprofessional and used with negative connotation. Would you refer to a Dr in his/her 50’s or 60’s as old or would you view them as knowledgeable and experienced. I would like to remind new grads that they will be dependent of experienced nurses once they start working also that new grads and new overseas nurses actually greatly increase the work load on the experienced nurses. We teach, preceptor, assess and support new staff. Also ‘Ellie’ you need to be aware that experienced nurses have seen and created change and have a working knowledge of things that have and have not worked. New Grads need to be aware that some of the changes that have occurred in nurses education have not all be beneficial to our patients. ie. the major decrease in practical hours in the degree training and the limited exposure to all major areas of nursing is not all positive and as I have already pointed out, New Grads need a lot of support from experienced staff. So back to the issue, as an experienced New Zealand trained nurse with a post graduate qualification, who is very capable and willing to pass on knowledge to new grads, I support you, I encourage our government to employ you so you can become skilled but in turn ensure you acknowledge and appreciate what experienced nurses have to offer you.

  7. i am an overseas trained nurse and have been in New Zealand for the last 8 years. since this whole comment has started i feel unwanted in the workforce. i have and will continue to contribute to the nursing profession. i never had plans to leave New Zealand, my children are born here, but i am seriously considering leaving if NZNO continues to undervalue overseas trained nurses. if all overseas trained nurses did this what would happen to the patients? there still has to be a balance between new graduate and experienced nurses to ensure patient safety, if enough experienced nurses left then there wouldnt be enough to train the new grads. the other arguement is how do we keep the experienced NZ trained nurses from going overseas, mostly for better pay?

  8. The fact that New Zealand’s skills needs have changed over the years does not mean our immigrant nurses are not valued. But the skills shortage list should reflect our current and future needs, which it no longer does. Foreign nurses make up a large part of NZNO’s membership, and they are as valued as home grown nurses. It is misguided to assume that rethinking the skills shortage list means those foreign nurses already here are not valued members of our health system and our union.

  9. We need to focus on the number of places offered at colleges, uni’s and polytechnics as they appear to vastly outweigh netp placements available. They also need to seriously look at the lack of practical nursing skills our new nurses have, howevr they can write a smashing essay

    • There’s no denying that having large volumes of nursing students is a huge money maker for universities. I don’t however believe we are training too many as we know all about the current and looming nursing shortage. This issue here lies in the fact that there isn’t enough funding for new graduate positions. As for the skill aspect….more and more is expected form nurses every day.its important to be able to think critically and know why you are doing things rather than just doing them, this is where the ‘essay’ side of things comes in. I think more of a balance is needed. I’d love if training were 50/50 or at least 60/40 theory vs practical. But try finding those placements for over 100 students! Its a double edged sword. At the end of the day all it comes down to is poor workforce planning thanks to HWNZ.

  10. I have been a nurse 11 years. Left the dhb after 8 to work in primary heath where after 8 months I was made redundant. Landed another job then after 16 months the role was restructured. Currently on a 3rd contract extension. Temporary contract. No security. I have applied for 25 jobs. 8 interviews and still nothing. Most jobs have more than 100 applications for each position. The last one hired 2 junior nurses. 1 new grad and 1 just out of new grad. They are paid far less than me. At the dhb I lost out to migrant nurses. There is no shortage of nurses and the skill is no longer needed to be imported into NZ. I need a permanant job and cant get one. I cant go overseas due to family comittments so im stuck. There needs to be a duty to nurses born and trained here to ensure they can get job security. That duty doesnt disregard migrants currently nursing but no more new migrant roles. I love being a nurse but im frustrated at this situation and lack of stability

  11. I am a new graduate nurse and I have found it hard finding employment. I have read all the blogs and totally agree with them all.. and what I sense is a sense of fear, and that is ok, as I know I experience it myself. there is no point pointing out the shortage of work, and how they want only experienced nurses, and how is it we can get the experience, if we are not given the chance.. my fear is, what about the time lapsing- between graduating, and finding a job. How long is too long? How is it the new graduates fault? when like someone wrote, you are excellent and you do have everything going for you but to no avail. How about on going training? so while you do look for employment and want to keep upskilling- it costs so much, however, IF you were employed, this would be paid for, and what about the new grads they pump out each new semester? who are added to the list like ourselves trying dilengtly to make their dream come true. Im not trying to sound pessimistic- or a bubble burster- Im just sharing my honesty and hoped I am not alone feeling this way

    • You are not alone tmichelle. I feel exactly the same as you. Here I am seven months on from finishing my degree and I do not have employment as an RN. I do think to myself well how long is too long? Will there become a point at which I am unemployable becauseiI have been out so long? I know it has nothing to do with my ability I was a fantastic student and I know I am a good nurse. Instead I’m working at a facility getting paid just over minimum wage doing everything an RN does (incl notes assesment and drug admin) for $10 less an hr and in the meantime the clock is tick tick ticking away on my registration. If it wasn’t for my family and the good in my life I think I’d be clinically depressed by now.

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