Angela was recently interviewed and featured in an article for Yahoo Business.
Angela Thwaites runs a boutique nursing recruitment firm in Sydney. Even at the best of times, she might find herself one or two nurses shy of being able to fully meet demand. That was before the pandemic. These days, she’s facing a candidate drought from so many directions it makes pre-COVID staffing issues look like a walk in the park.
“It’s the bane of my existence,” she told Yahoo Finance. “Going back five or 10 years, we’ve always had a mild shortage of registered nurses, and that’s nothing new. It was manageable. Then the pandemic hit.”
At the heart of the problem, Thwaites says, is the closure of international borders. She estimates roughly 70 percent of nursing staff in any typical hospital or aged care facility are our “international friends”.
“Our industry relies on skilled international workers. They were coming in by the truckloads in years gone by,” she said.
But with the borders tightly shut, she’s running into brick walls trying to find qualified healthcare professionals to fill every nursing role, from qualified RNs (registered nurses) to aged carers and AINs (assistants in nursing).
RNs have been hardest to come by. NSW Health has swept up most of them in a massive hiring blitz to staff the vaccine centres and COVID-19 testing hubs. Meanwhile, the flow of AINs that would typically come through education courses have dried up.
“They come here to study, get their certificate, and off we go. And the courses are closing down. They’re collapsing,” Thwaites said. It’s the downfall of an entire subsector in and of itself.
“I’m at the other end of that. No one’s coming into the country, and they’re not coming out of these courses.”
Though the critical nature of the healthcare sector has become even more important in the pandemic, Thwaites says she knows other industries are going through the same thing.
“The shortage comes down to our industries being multicultural. And it’s the same in hospitality. It’s the same with kitchen and catering, food factories and truck drivers.”