The UK is often seen as the crème de la crème of healthcare provision, with the National Health Service historically providing job security, competitive pay and proper employee rights – but as austerity and Brexit take hold, Australia could be a lifeline to nurses trying to stay afloat.
The National Health Service (NHS) is currently facing a crisis of underfunding, leading current employees to be overworked and underpaid, ultimately causing young nurses to resign, according to a BBC investigation.
In the year ending September 2017, 17,207 nurses under 40-years-old left the NHS, compared to 9,437 nurses aged 40-years-old to 54-years-old, and 6,796 nurses aged 55-years and older. The exact reasons for this trend are unclear, but it is speculated that the ‘downward spiral’ is due to intense stress and under staffing.
“I want to be a great nurse and I want to give my patients my best, but I feel that I can’t do that at the moment because we’re just too short-staffed, too busy, there are far too many things for us to be doing,” resigned nurse Mary Trevelyan, who worked in the NHS for under three years before being diagnosed with depression, told the BBC.
This pattern now seems to be reflected in the number of students applying for nursing in the UK, which fell by 17.6 percent in 2017, according to the UCAS End of Cycle Report.
And for international students choosing to study nursing in the UK, the stakes are even higher.
With less than a year until Brexit takes hold, students from the EU face potentially increased fees, while a further 39 percent of students outside the EU would be deterred from choosing the UK as a study abroad destination due to Brexit, according to a report by QS Enrolment Solutions.
So with a crumbling NHS and widespread disenchantment about the UK’s higher education future, where will these passionate student nurses turn to learn the trade?
With 9 of the top 50 universities for nursing being located in Australia, according to the recently released Shangai Rankings 2018, the UK’s sunnier cousin could provide a welcoming alternative to the ‘hostile environment’ currently plaguing UK university halls.
Additionally, for those wishing to build their career overseas, the word ‘nurse’ appears 20 times on the ‘combined current list of eligible skilled occupations’ created by the Australian Home Affairs, denoting which industries have shortages that immigrants could fill, meaning the occupation is highly sought-after by the Australian government.
“As a nurse, there are a lot of opportunities around and there are various areas to work in which can all be completely different to each other,” Anne Louise Story, a 23-year-old nursing graduate in Australia told Study International.
“I think Australia is a good place to work as there’s a good health care system in place and there are so many different opportunities to learn and to do further studies.”
By studying at undergraduate- or postgraduate-level in Australia, nursing graduates are eligible for the 485 skilled graduate temporary visa, which lasts for two years for undergraduate and Master’s students, three years for MRes students, and four years for completing a PhD.
Nursing graduates then have the opportunity to apply for Permanent Residency (PR) after their 485 visas come to an end.
The Australian immigration authorities consider PR applications on a points basis. Points are allocated based on:
- English Language Ability
- Skilled Employment
- Educational Qualifications
- Australian Study Requirements
- Credentialed Community Language Qualifications
- Study in Regional Australia
- Partner Skill Qualifications
- Professional Year in Australia
Applicants need to show they have worked for three years in the industry – which should be no problem with clinical placements throughout the course and two years experience on the 485 visa – making them more qualified than their Australian nursing peers and maximising their chances of being accepted for PR, according to Mark Fletcher, CEO of student finance company Cohort Go.
Student nurses who’ve completed their studies in Australia will also have evidence for their English language skills and educational qualifications, making the points on the PR evaluation stack up.
For those considering this career, it’s notable to consider the terms of PR may change under the new Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, who appointed the previous Defence Minister, Marise Payne, as the new Foreign Minister yesterday, according to The New York Times. Payne may make changes to immigration policy and visa terms in her new position, meaning applying for PR may not remain the same for long.