Workforce issues in nursing in Queensland: 2001 and 2004


  • Desley Hegney BA (Hons), PhD, RN, DNE, FRCNA FCN (NSW),

  • Robert Eley BSc (Hons), MSc, PhD, MIBiol, CBiol,

  • Ashley Plank MSc (Hons), PhD, Dip. T BSc,

  • Elizabeth Buikstra BSc (Hons), PhD,

  • Victoria Parker BHSc, Grad. Dip. Critical Care, RN, MN, MRCNA

Desley Hegney
Centre for Rural and Remote Area Health
University of Southern Queensland
PO Darling Heights
Australia 4350
Telephone: +61 7 4631 5456


Aims and objectives.  The aim of the study was to identify the factors having an impact upon nursing work and to use the results to inform strategic planning of the Queensland Nurses Union.

Background.  In 2001 and 2004, a study was undertaken to gather data on the level of satisfaction of nurses with their working life. This paper reports the 2004 results on workload, skill mix, remuneration and morale. Where applicable, the results are compared with 2001 data.

Methods.  A questionnaire was mailed to 3000 Assistants-in-Nursing, Enrolled and Registered Nurses in October 2004. All participants were members of the Queensland Nurses Union. The results are reported in three sectors – public, private and aged care. A total of 1349 nurses responded to the survey, a response rate of 45%.

Results.  Nurses in the 2004 study believed: their workload was heavy; their skills and experience poorly rewarded; work stress was high; morale was perceived to be poor and, similar to 2001, deteriorating; the skill mix was often inadequate; and the majority of nurses were unable to complete their work in the time available. Nursing morale was found to be associated with autonomy, workplace equipment, workplace safety, teamwork, work stress, the physical demand of nursing work, workload, rewards for skills and experience, career prospects, status of nursing and remuneration.

Conclusions.  Overall the findings of the study are consistent with those determined by the 2001 survey.

Relevance to clinical practice.  The findings of this study indicate the importance of factors such as workplace autonomy, teamwork, the levels of workplace stress, workload and remuneration on nursing morale. The data also indicate that workplace safety and workplace morale are linked. These findings provide information for policy makers and nurse managers on areas that need to be addressed to retain nurses within aged care, acute hospital and community nursing.