Hundreds of internationally qualified nurses are being told not to apply for some job vacancies – despite the fact there’s still a significant shortage of nurses across the country.

1News can reveal a number of nursing jobs in Canterbury were listed that explicitly said applications from nurses who’d just recently completed their competency assessment programmes (CAP) would not be accepted.

The roles were at Te Whatu Ora / Health New Zealand – Waitaha Canterbury, in the maternity, oncology, and acute general surgery wards.

After being asked about the job ads the health ministry’s chief people officer, Andrew Slater, told 1News the wording was “a bit of a mistake and is in the process of being changed”.

“Sometimes there are certain departments recruiting that are looking for a specific skillset. For example, how we deliver maternity services is quite unique and New Zealand training is very different to what you would see overseas.”

The job ads were taken down after 1News drew attention to them. Slater reassured job applicants that those who had the right qualifications and experience would be “given a fair chance”.

“Internationally qualified nurses have always been a really important part of our workforce and we’ll continue to see that in the future.”

But 1News has spoken to several recruiters who say they are being inundated with foreign nurses desperate for work.

Devastated and depressed

Filipino nurse advocate Leizel Deligero says many of the nurses who came here hoping for work are feeling depressed and devastated at the constant rejections.

She says many had given up jobs and taken on debt to move here, as well as paying around $10,000 to complete their competency course.

“They are hardworking, have perseverance, and are committed to quality care for their patients,” Deligero said.

There has been a large influx of internationally qualified nurses coming to New Zealand ever since our borders reopened. The latest Nursing Council figures showed of all newly registered nurses in the October to December quarter, 63 per cent were trained overseas.

In addition, 48 per cent had completed their competency course – a requirement for nurses who are unable to receive their registration on the basis of their qualification alone.

‘Am I not good enough?’

One nurse, who did not want to be named, said it had been extremely frustrating to be turned away from positions she was qualified for.

“I’ve received over 20 declines and, just this week actually, it’s 10 declines. it’s quite bad.”

She estimated she had spent about $15,000 on competency courses and registration, only to have her applications declined — apparently without consideration.

She said other nurses were feeling they were just not good enough in New Zealand’s eyes. “That’s exactly what I feel too… that maybe I’m not good enough.”

Looking for experience

Gore Hospital chief executive Karl Metzler says he recently advertised for an ED nurse and had over 80 applicants, but most were newly registered from overseas.

“That volume of applicants is unprecedented for a rural health care facility,” he says. But he says none quite had the experience he was looking for.

“Just purely based on the paper exercise on their CVs they just don’t have the background and skills to work in a rural emergency department.”

He’s trying to support the unsuccessful applicants into other roles in his health service, but knows he can’t help them all.

Accent Health recruiter Prudence Thomson says she’s inundated with around 50 requests a day from internationally qualified nurses looking for work – a number she says is unprecedented.

“It’s quite heartbreaking when you see their application, and they are really quite aggressively applying to 50 jobs. I’ll talk to the DHB and ‘no’,” Thomson said.

A dire shortage

New Zealand Nurses Organisation president Anne Daniels says there is still a shortage of nurses nationwide.

“The shortage is absolutely dire, and nurses are going to work in fear of whether or not they are going to have their registration put at risk because of the unsafe working conditions,” she said.

“We absolutely need more nurses.”

While Daniels was surprised to hear of the advertisements telling international nurses their applications wouldn’t be looked at, she sensed that was more because many services felt they didn’t have the resources required to adequately support them into work.

“I suspect that it’s got a lot to do with investment and funding. Any nurse, no matter where they are from, takes about 18 months to two years to get up to speed. That requires good orientation and support.”