IRON nurses strengthening Alpine Health
By STRUAN JONES
IF you’ve rarely or never had occasion to visit the Alpine Health hospitals at Myrtleford, Bright or Mount Beauty, you are probably unaware of the number of international nurses working and training there.
Alpine Health has an international training program called Initial Registration for Overseas Nurses (IRON), which provides 12-week courses for international nurses to study and adapt to Australian nursing practices.
The program, started 10 years ago as a means of procuring and keeping full-time nursing staff, and has gone from strength to strength and grown from 18 trainees in its first year to its current 105 students per year.
Despite attracting nurses from Nepal, China, Iran, In- donesia, and India, it has tended over time to be most popular with nurses from the Philippines.
Upon completion, IRON nurses are able to apply for a work visa and full-time roles in the hospitals or elsewhere, and currently Alpine Health employs 12 of the graduates full-time.
Corporate services manager at Alpine Health Nick Shaw said the genesis of the program was simply to ensure the hospitals had a nursing workforce.
“This is not just an educational program, it’s a model for workforce recruitment to sustain the rural healthcare sector,” he said.
He said the popularity of the program with Filipino nurses was not by design, but just inclined that way as the word spread.
Plus, he said, there is a lot of demand for Filipino nurses because their English and nursing skills are very good.
The small Myrtleford Filipino community has gradually grown over the past few years on the back of the program, and many among the hospital staff hope it’s a trend that will continue, bolstering the capabilities of the healthcare services in the region.
Filipa Withers, education and training manager, said it has been great to see international nurses come to the Alpine region and get married, have families and establish themselves.
“The reason we got into the game was because we couldn’t get staff, but the great outcomes are not just employment, but community integration and support for us,” she said.