Nurses' health under the microscope

Jennieffer Barr and Kay Ross
Jennieffer Barr and Kay Ross

THE health and wellbeing of Australian nurses is about to be put under the spotlight.

There are about 270,000 nurses working in Australia but little is known about their health and wellbeing and how it can impact patient care.

That is about to change with researchers from Southern Cross University encouraging registered and enrolled nurses to participate in a survey that has just been released.

Ms Kay Ross and Dr Jennieffer Barr, of the School of Health and Human Sciences, are the principle researchers in the project and they are hoping 70,000 nurses will complete the survey.

The research is being funded by the Department of Health and Ageing.

"For such a large workforce it seems odd that the health and wellbeing of nurses has often been overlooked as an area of study," Ms Ross said.

"It is important to find out how nurses provide health promotion and education and how their own health and wellbeing allows them to do that."

Nurse health is a hot topic within industry circles as the workforce ages. According to census data from 2005, 35% of registered nurses were aged over 50, while the average age of a registered nurse is now 45.

Chronic illness is a major concern for the workforce, according to Dr Barr, a nurse for more than 30 years.

"Nurses, like the Australian population, are ageing and with that comes chronic illness. The big focus today is to think proactive and reduce the risk of developing such illness," she said.

"This is the first study that is looking at risks that Australian nurses may have for developing illness.

"With an ageing workforce we are pleased that the health and wellbeing of nurses is now a major focus for research."

Ms Ross is also a nurse with more than 30 years' experience.

"Nursing is a very challenging profession," she said.

"You are dealing with people at their most vulnerable and you need to be at your best every day that you go into work even if you don't feel 100 per cent.

"Often a nurse's own health and wellbeing is put on the back burner.

"Many would like to be healthier, or do more exercise, or eat healthier, but find the rigours of the job can restrict them in doing this.

"Many nurses have big patient loads, they stress over job security and they suffer all the stress and problems that come from working shift work.

Registered and enrolled nurses are encouraged to participate in the survey that will take approximately 15 minutes.

The survey is completely anonymous and can be found at

The researchers will collect data over a six month period with the aim of releasing their findings towards the end of next year.

Topics:  nurses southern cross university

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