Date published: 
7 May 2020
Media type: 
Media release
General public

The Minister for Health, Greg Hunt and Australian College of Nursing (ACN) have thanked the thousands of nurses who have stepped up to ensure Australia has a health care workforce with the depth and capacity to respond to challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

In March, the Australian Government funded 3,000 scholarships for registered nurses to undertake online education to enable them to refresh their clinical skills. Over 5,000 nurses registered interest in taking part in the program and all 3,000 scholarships have been awarded.

Minister Hunt and ACN revealed nearly 2,500 nurses had completed the program in the weeks since it began and the full 3,000 scholarship recipients are expected to have refreshed their clinical skills by the end of May.

In making the announcement, Minister Hunt thanked the nursing community for all their efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic, and in particular those who undertook the training.

“We thank and acknowledge all of Australia’s nurses for their ongoing commitment and dedication to providing Australians with the health care they need during this unprecedented time,” Minister Hunt said.

“The Government has been consulting extensively with key nursing and midwifery organisations to ensure our health system can cope with the challenges of COVID-19.”

“Many of the nurses who completed this course did so in their own time, while working in other parts of the health care sector and caring for their families.”

“What their willingness to update their clinical skills means is that as a nation we are prepared, we have a workforce willing and able to transition into the provision of clinical care,” Minister Hunt said.

The refresher course provides an overview to the contemporary requirements of a clinical care nurse, with a focus on current infection prevention and control in the post-COVID world.

Australian Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer, Alison McMillan welcomed the news and said she was happy with the outcome.

“It was really pleasing to see how quickly this online course was fully subscribed. This will allow those nurses who have recently left clinical practice to refresh their skills to support others. It doesn’t surprise me that so many nurses have put up their hands to be part of the fight against coronavirus.  It’s simply what nurses do, it’s in their DNA,” Ms McMillan said.

The Australian Government has provided up to $2.5 million to the Australian College of Nursing (ACN) to support an online refresher course with up to date information about acute nursing care, including latest evidence based guidelines on COVID-19 infection control.

Australian College of Nursing CEO, Adjunct Professor Kylie Ward said, “We are fortunate in Australia to have one of the best health systems in the world. Our dedicated nurses, who make up the largest proportion of our health care workforce, play an essential role in the delivery of quality care.”

“However, as we saw overseas, COVID-19 had the potential to overwhelm tertiary health care. The Australian Government was quick to recognise the need to be prepared for any scenario and make sure we had trained health care professionals who could quickly take on new roles if it became necessary at any point.”

The online education program is part of the Australian Government’s $2.4 billion health package aimed at protecting all Australians, including vulnerable groups such as the elderly, those with chronic conditions and Indigenous communities, from COVID-19.