Date published: 
15 April 2020
Media event date: 
2 April 2020
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

LISA MILLAR:

And as we're reporting this morning, the Federal Government has announced funding for 20,000 nurses to be trained up in critical care, to help deal with coronavirus demand. Alison McMillan is Australia's Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer and she joins us now from the Federal Health Department in Canberra. Alison, good morning.

ALISON MCMILLAN:

Good morning.

LISA MILLAR:

Thank you for joining us on the show. How difficult is it for general nurses to train up to go into ICU and critical care?

ALISON MCMILLAN:

Thanks, Lisa. You've got to remember that all of our nurses in Australia are already highly trained nurses. They're competent and capable. This will give them extra skills and knowledge that will help them work as a part of a team in a high-dependency or an intensive care unit wherever they are across the country.

LISA MILLAR:

And for this plan to try and get retired nurses and doctors, medical staff back online, how does it actually work when people have been out of the industry for a while?

ALISON MCMILAN:

For everybody who's been out of the industry, there are some requirements that might be necessary for them to do some retraining. You may be aware that earlier last week we introduced a refresher course for nurses, just so those that had been out of practice for less than three years just got a little bit of a refresh into what nursing means today in Australia, and how they might work as a part of the system. So, we've already seen 2500 people register for that course already.

LISA MILLAR:

And do others, what, get a phone call, an email, say, have you thought about coming back?

ALISON MCMILAN:

They're all going to get an email. So, they're all – were registered as a part of the Australian regulatory system and they're getting an email today saying, hey, if you want to come back to work, let's talk about how we can do that and how we can help you do that.

LISA MILLAR:

We don't know when the peak is going to hit Australia, we're a little way off it, but what is it like on a day-to-day basis in the hospitals at the moment, as they prepare for what might be ahead?

ALISON MCMILAN:

Day-to-day in the hospital, obviously the normal business of care goes on, as we always expect it to do. But behind the scenes, there's a huge amount of work going on to build capacity, to plan for surge, to identify areas where additional intensive care beds can be placed, buying equipment, doing training. All – right across the country there's a massive amount of work going on so that we're prepared for the surge in demand that we're anticipating.

LISA MILLAR:

And how many do you expect to either train up to ICU critical care level, or to come back in? I mean, how short are we of staff?

ALISON MCMILLAN:

Lisa, we're not short of staff at the moment. What we're wanting to do is increase the number of staff that we've got. There are 276,000 nurses registered today across the country. They are by far the largest workforce in the health system. But we need more. And so we are looking at training extra so they can work in intensive care, and we're looking at bringing those back who may have left the profession for a particular reason and want to return. So, we're leaving no stone unturned to make sure that we can have as many nurses as we can ready and able to meet the demand that we're anticipating.

LISA MILLAR:

And in the UK, they quickly graduated medical students. Is that something we'd consider here?

ALISON MCMILLAN:

Look, Lisa, that's more around doctors rather than nurses. And my area of expertise and what I'm concentrating on today is on nurses and midwives. So we're also working very hard to make that those that are in their third year of university can graduate, so that we've got that workforce going forward.

LISA MILLAR:

And how can we look after them, Alison? It disturbs me every time I hear the numbers in Italy – more than 60 doctors that have died because of coronavirus. How can we make sure we're doing the best for our front-line staff?

ALISON MCMILLAN:

Well, everyone in Australia knows that they've got to play their part, because what we need to do is make sure that we can reduce the spread and flatten that curve that we've all been talking about now, seems like forever. So, firstly we need to reduce the demand. And they we're providing training and equipment for all of our front-line healthcare workers so that they can protect themselves. But, again, I'm going to remind people that violence and aggression against our workforce is never acceptable. And we have heard some reports of that, so I ask everyone to be considerate and patient when they're accessing our healthcare system today.

LISA MILLAR:

Yes, and we would absolutely reiterate that message here on this program. Alison McMillan, thank you for joining us.

ALISON MCMILLAN:

My pleasure. Thank you for having me.

Contact

Departmental media enquiries

Contact for members of the media

news [at] health.gov.au (subject: Media%20enquiry%20-%20News%20item%20ID10832, body: URL - https%3A%2F%2Fwww.health.gov.au%2Fnews%2Fchief-nursing-and-midwifery-officer-interview-on-abc-news-breakfast-on-2-april-2020)

View contact