Authority steps up recruitment
The Hospital Authority is implementing a strategy to ensure it can cope with greater demand for services when the economy shows signs of sustained growth.
The Strategic Service Plan 2009-2012 is aimed at managing this demand efficiently, enhancing the quality and safety of services provided, and nurturing a highly competent and skilled workforce. It is busy with a recruitment drive for enrolled and registered nurses. Irene Ho, the chief nursing officer, says the authority will use online recruitment to entice graduates from local tertiary education institutions.
An analysis of expected graduate supply and manpower demand, that takes into account factors such as staff turnover and retirement, shows that local public hospitals face a shortage of 590 nurses in the next few years. The authority manages all public hospitals in Hong Kong and has a workforce of 55,000, including 19,000 nurses.
The authority only recruits enrolled and registered nurses in accordance with its policy of promotion from within for more senior positions.
"The Hospital Authority attracts many fresh graduates because it provides advanced professional training in a broad array of specialties," Ho says. "We are the only health care organisation in Hong Kong able to provide nurses with exposure to a diverse range of specialised services from primary care, such as outpatient clinics, to quaternary care, including the technologically advanced organ transplant surgeries provided by hospitals affiliated with universities."
The authority's three nursing training schools offer two-year, full-time enrolled nurse diplomas for individuals who complete their Form Five studies at secondary schools. They also offer a full-time, three-year higher diploma registered nurse programme for Form Seven graduates. Several local universities have undergraduate degree programmes for registered nurses. Enrolled nurses can become registered nurses by completing a part-time three-year conversion offered by the Open University of Hong Kong, Ho adds.
A new career progression model features an additional clinical stream for the positions above the level of registered nurse. As part of the new model, registered nurses who want to continue focusing on clinical services at a higher level will become advanced practice nurses and then nurse consultants. Those who want to devote themselves to management will move up to ward or unit managers and then become department operations managers. In the old model, registered nurses could only opt to become ward managers and then department operations managers if they wanted to move up the career ladder.
To consolidate their clinical skills and build basic competency, newly recruited registered nurses are encouraged to enrol in a two-year preceptorship training programme. They will be rotated in up to three clinical specialties, including the medical and surgical streams. They will become pre-specialty registered nurses and can choose to enhance their competency and knowledge of a specialty based on their interests by enrolling in the post registration certificate course offered by the Institute of Advanced Nursing Studies or master's degree programmes in nursing offered by local universities, Ho adds. After completing these programmes, these specialty registered nurses are eligible for promotion to advanced practice nurses or ward managers.
The nurse consultants are in charge of one specialty and responsible for managing the ways of delivering care and the development of delivery models and evidence-based practices and research, she adds. "The department operations managers are in charge of the operation of an entire division with multiple specialties. They also look after clinical management and service development in co-operation with the doctors, human resource issues, budget planning and other administrative matters."
It usually takes four to six years for upwardly mobile registered nurses to become specialty registered nurses. The position of advanced practice nurses requires a minimum of 10 years of work experience in addition to the completion of knowledge enhancement programmes. Individuals eligible for nurse consultants or department operations managers should have more than 15 years of working experience, Ho adds. The authority also promotes the mental well-being of its employees through a department called Oasis which provides a confidential counselling service by clinical psychologists. Oasis also organises stress management courses.
The authority is a statutory body responsible for the provision of all public hospital services in Hong Kong. It manages 41 public hospitals and institutions supplying 27,200 beds, 48 specialist outpatient clinics and 74 general outpatient clinics. The facilities are organised into seven regional groupings.
The allocation of nurses to the various groupings is decided upon recruitment. Nurses can also be transferred to hospitals in a different cluster because of staff turnover or retirement. They can also apply for internal transfers, Ho says.