On 1 May 2018, the Victorian Government announced a long list of TAFE qualifications and apprenticeship pathways that people could study for free. This initiative was launched in response to a state shortage of professionals in particular industries, including several healthcare courses like Diploma of Nursing, Certificate IV in Mental Health, Certificate II/IV in Dental Assisting, Certificate III/IV in Allied Health Assistance, and Certificate IV in Ageing Support.

For an industry that is paramount to keeping our society running, it’s a little worrying to discover that the numbers of people studying and training for healthcare professions is dropping dramatically. With a booming population and the demand to provide exceptional and world-leading healthcare increasing, we need people entering the healthcare fields more than ever.

So, where is everyone?

The jobs are tough and competitive

There’s no denying that working in healthcare is not an easy gig, and these jobs demand a particular type of person. You are in an environment where you work incredibly long hours and are in charge of, or part of a team responsible for the care of patients who are ill or in pain, scared, angry and confused. A healthcare worker follows stringent rules in their day to day, each action proceeded and followed by meticulous paperwork. They see patients at their worst and can be exposed to heartbreakingly emotional scenes with patients and family, particularly when dealing with illness and death are par for the course of their work lives.

Of course, this only becomes harder due to demand for jobs. With funding issues resulting in less positions available at each healthcare facility or hospital, workers are forced to travel further and further away from their homes to find work.

When the salary doesn’t match the responsibilities

The average salary for a Registered Nurse in Victoria is $55,483. The salary of an average AFL player is $371,000. While some footy fans may report heart palpitations during a close match, and a victory to be lifesaving, the disproportionate salary between healthcare professionals and professionals from other industries is staggering.

When this salary is put into context with other factors – the cost of living, housing prices, dependents, and maintaining a social life – it’s easy to understand why people aren’t lining up to study in this industry.

How do we encourage people to sign up?

This initiative is a good start. With the stress of paying for the course removed, more people will be encouraged to follow their passion for providing compassionate healthcare. Along with this, the industry could benefit from a push for established professionals from other industries to retrain in healthcare, or encourage retirees who are seeking to return to the workforce to sign up to learn something new.