Last month, the internationally qualified nurses’ (IQN) community welcomed the inclusion of aged care registered nurse into the Long Term Skill Shortage List (LTSSL) by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. The LTSSL identifies occupations with sustained shortage of highly skilled workers all over Aotearoa New Zealand.
The skill shortage list provides assurance to employers and potential migrants and allows migrants such as nurses to find skills/specialties that are in demand in New Zealand. If the IQN has the qualification, work experience and nurse registration required to work as an aged care registered nurse, they may be eligible for either an Essential Skills Work Visa or a LTSSL Work Visa. If they apply for a LTSSL work visa, they can apply for residence after two years. This is a great platform for both IQNs wanting to seek employment in New Zealand and employers in the aged care sector especially that this move veers away from what is transient to a more permanent way of settling in Aotearoa New Zealand.
However, this visa can only be granted to IQNs who are registered to practise nursing in New Zealand.
How can New Zealand fast track the recruitment of IQNs into the aged care sector?
There are several requirements that are dependent on the capability of IQNs to satisfy and these need to be submitted to the Nursing Council of New Zealand. The Nursing Council is currently doing it’s best to improve processing of these requirements to facilitate IQN registration.
However, there are requirements that would further help IQN application to be fast-tracked and this includes visa processing through immigration. It has been recommended that immigration NZ develop an IQN/healthworker visa category which is valid for around 12 months to allow migrant nurses to complete the CAP, obtain a practising certificate, and look for a job as registered nurses with a single visa application.
Currently, most migrant nurses enrol in the CAP and come to NZ on a limited visitor’s visa which is usually valid for a few months. The CAP takes around 2.5 to 3 months to complete, after which, the nurses need to apply for a visa extension while waiting for their practising certificate (around 1 month). After obtaining a practising certificate, they would then need to apply for a work visa and an IQN can be offered a job between 1-6 months. This entails hundreds of dollars, a lot of time needed to prepare documentation for the repetitive application and stress because of uncertainty. A single IQN/healthworker visa category would simplify this process and save money, time and unnecessary stress (Hernandez, 2018).
In the past, the aged care sector has also encouraged the government to incentivise nurses into aged care. Residential aged care facilities are attracting nurses to go into aged care by offering staff discounts for almost everything that they need (Cree, 2018). Staff retention would also be assured if the nurses are provided professional development support as they grow in their roles. Government can support this move and do the same for aged care nurses and their families. Migrant settlement and integration could be further strengthened among aged care nurses. Policymakers should also ensure that this valuable workforce get the pay, benefits and better working conditions that they deserve.
Finally, the nurses’ union can do its part in supporting migrant nurses in the workplace through adequate union organiser coverage. Professional support and union leadership among aged care IQNs is also imperative.
In summary, fast tracking the recruitment of IQNs into the aged care sector requires the joint effort of the Nursing Council of New Zealand, immigration and other government agencies, the aged care sector and the nurses’ union.
Cree, B. (2018). Nursing shortage in aged care sector needs government intervention. Retrieved from https://www.eldernet.co.nz/gazette/nursing-shortage-in-aged-care-sector-needs-government-intervention/.
Hernandez, M. (2018). Opinion: Migrant nurses can help solve Kiwi nursing shortage. Retrieved from https://healthcentral.nz/opinion-monina-hernandez-filipino-nurses-can-help-solve-kiwi-nursing-shortage/.
Monina Hernandez, is President of Filipino Nurses Association of New Zealand, Inc, Board Member of Nursing Council of New Zealand and a Lecturer at Massey University’s School of Nursing.