Flinders tackles mental health nurse shortage

Flinders University has joined forces with the South Australia’s peak nursing and midwifery body to increase the number of qualified mental health nurses in the state.

Announced at the start of Mental Health Awareness Week, the partnership will launch with a focus on the need to address the state’s severe shortage of mental health nurses.

The partnership between Flinders and the SA branch of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) follows forecasts that South Australia is set to lose up to half of its older nursing and midwifery workforce over the next few years – and many will be experienced mental health nurses. Mental health nurses are part of the eldest workforce group, with the average age sitting around 50 years.

Only nursing staff with qualifications in mental health, or studying towards those qualifications, are able to assess and care for mental health patients.

The new initiative will give SA nurses more streamlined access to post-graduate studies at Flinders University by enabling them to springboard from a related continuing professional development (CPD) course at the ANMF (SA branch) registered training centre, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Education Centre.

ANMF (SA branch) CEO and Secretary, Adjunct Associate Professor Elizabeth Dabars AM, is pleased to be working with one of Adelaide’s leading universities towards the solution to a ‘real-world’ problem.

“This partnership is crucial when you consider that only qualified mental health nurses or those studying towards those such qualifications are able to provide care for mental health patients,” Ms Dabars says.

“Mental health is already chronically understaffed,” she says.

“There are hospital beds right now that remain unopened because there aren’t enough qualified nurses across the country, let alone in South Australia.

“Without strategic partnerships of this nature, the future of mental health looks extremely grim, particularly as an area set to lose the most nursing staff to retirement over the next decade.”

Flinders University Professor Alison Kitson, Vice President and Executive Dean of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences, says the partnership reflects the University’s ability to adapt to meet workforce demand.

“We are delighted to be part of a potential solution to critical challenge facing our health system now and into the future,” Professor Kitson says.

“The University prides itself on identifying ways to make it easier for people to access tertiary education, particularly for shift-workers like nurses who require more flexible study options to upskill in a specialised field.

“This exciting partnership will make is easier than ever before for South Australian nurses to assess and engage in timely, relevant and manageable ‘bite-size’ learning from CPD level all the way through to a Masters qualification.”

Prior to the collaboration, Registered Nurses could only access post-graduate university studies via the SA Tertiary Admissions Centre (SATAC) application process once or twice a year (course-dependent).

A marketing campaign to promote the partnership to Flinders University alumni and more than 20,500 members of the nursing and midwifery workforce will be launched later this year.

Young people are the focus of World Mental Health Day this year – see the World Federation for Mental Health manifesto and Mental Health Australia’s ‘Do You See What I See?’ campaign, encouraging everyone to look at mental health in a more positive light, in an effort to reduce stigma and make way for more people to seek help and support.

One in five Australians are affected by mental illness, yet many don’t seek help because of stigma.

Flinders University runs a Health, Counselling and Disability service Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm. Call (08) 8201 2118  or email counselling@flinders.edu.auAfter-hours crisis counselling support is also available on 1300 512 409 or by text on 0488 884 103.



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