(from left to right) Fiona Chu, a Western Health nurse andgraduate of the early career nurse program, with Linda Pocock, nurse unit managerand Camille Carpio, a seniornurse who mentored Ms Chu
Western Health has pioneered an innovative program under a state government initiative aimed at tackling the problem of many newly graduated Victorian nurses missing out on jobs in public hospitals.
In recent years, up to 500 newly graduated nurses and midwives per year have missed out on securing a graduate nursing position in a Victorian health service.
The state government responded by inviting health services to develop innovative and collaborative programs to reverse the trend, under an initiative called the ‘Collaborative Nursing and Midwifery Graduate Program’.
This led Western Health to create an Early Career Nurse (ECN) Program for newly graduated nurses who miss out on a graduate year job.
The health service employed an extra 32 nurses in its first ECN program in 2015, on top of the 119 graduate nurses and midwives recruited for its existing Graduate Nurse Programs. Under the 12-month ECN program, early career nurses are employed as part of Western Health’s general nursing pool, unlike their peers in the traditional Graduate Nurse Programs. This means they’re able to fill vacant shifts in a variety of areas when a ward nurse is sick or on annual leave.
They receive structured training similar to their graduate peers, working a rotating roster, assigned to several hospital wards in the first six months, before moving to another Western Health hospital campus to complete their final six months of the ECN program.
The program has been highly successful, enabling Western Health to increase its intake of graduate nurses by 27 per cent and reduce its reliance on agency staff to fill vacant nursing shifts in some hospital wards.
Of the first 32 nurses to complete the ECN program, two thirds went on to secure permanent jobs at Western Health while other ECN graduates were able to start their nursing careers by getting jobs at other health services.
Linda Pocock, nurse unit manager of Footscray Hospital’s 3 East Ward, hired three graduates from the first ECN program after being impressed with their abilities and willingness to learn from senior nurses who oversee their training.
“The ECN program is great because it’s meant we have a consistent pool of nurses who’ve been trained by our senior nurses, who know what we expect and who understand our patients when they’re asked to fill vacancies on our wards,” Mrs Pocock said.
“Having early career nurses saves us a lot of time and allows us to spend more time with our patients. That’s because every time we employ a new agency nurse we have to take them on an orientation of the ward because they’re unfamiliar with our ward and our hospital’s policies and procedures.”