Recruiting for in-demand roles: New Zealand healthcare in focus
Like many countries around the world, New Zealand is facing an age-old challenge.

The number of people aged 65 and over has doubled since 1980 and is predicted to double again by 2036. Not only does this place pressure on healthcare resources, a large portion of the country’s nursing population is also approaching retirement age.

Nursing represents the largest occupational group within New Zealand’s health sector. Research from the Nursing Council of New Zealand shows 57% of the country’s nursing workforce was over the age of 45 in 2010. Over the next 25 years, half of its nurses will retire and the report projects nursing graduate numbers would need to double by 2035 to prevent the predicted nursing shortfall.

“New Zealand has a candidate-short market when it comes to nursing,” says Camille Coom, General Manager of specialist healthcare recruitment firm Medacs Healthcare. “We’re seeing a shortage in midwifery and paramedics as well as in aged care, which is a demanding career because nurses are facing a full patient load. Employers need to consider their recruitment strategy to attract the best talent.”

Nurses in demand

Recruiting such in-demand roles remains a challenge across much of New Zealand. “Clients are often looking to countries with similar healthcare frameworks for candidates,” says Coom.

She adds that as pay scales are regulated within the nursing industry, employers need to develop a range of benefits to attract candidates.

“Work-life balance is important for employees across all sectors and the same applies to nursing,” says Coom. “Career development and training are also attractive benefits for nurses.”

Creative solutions

Nursing in rural locations presents a different set of challenges to urban hospital environments. Coom says employers in these locations often promote the rural lifestyle as a means of attracting talent.

“The cost of living can also be cheaper. This can help attract nurses to regions like Bay of Plenty, for example,” says Coom. “Whenever we ask clients in rural areas to discuss the benefits they offer, they always list the lifestyle. In a candidate-short market like nursing, employers are being more creative in the way they promote themselves.”

One health organisation with a creative approach is Bay of Plenty District Health Board (BOPDHB), which employs more than 3,100 full-time staff and serves a population of 214,910. BOPDHB’s district stretches from Waihi Beach in the North West to Whangaparaoa on the East Cape and inland to the Urewera, Kaimai and Mamaku ranges. The region’s population has the second-fastest growth rate of New Zealand's 20 district health boards and its total population growth in the planning period of 2006-2026 is forecast to be 23.5%.

BOPDHB has innovative ways of promoting its workplace culture. This includes a Youtube channel that features a range of videos, such as a message from the CEO who explains the BOPDHB’s culture and workplace values of Compassion, Attitude, Responsiveness, and Excellence.

Another video shows highlights of the working life at BOPDHB and includes a line-dancing flash mob of nursing staff in celebration of International Nurses Day.

“We look for people who love nursing and show an interest and excitement in caring for people,” says Julie Robinson, BOPDHB’s Director of Nursing.

Robinson adds that BOPDHB does not have challenges in attracting nursing talent. “We want to recruit and retain high-calibre staff with the proper balance of knowledge, skills and experience to ensure the BOPDHB is seen as a place of opportunities and excellence in nursing,” she explains. “The lifestyle benefits of the Bay of Plenty are a benefit to our successful candidates.”

As New Zealand’s healthcare industry faces the pressure of an ageing population and an increasing rate of retirement in its nursing workforce, creative attraction and retention strategies will become an essential means of rising to the challenge.