Producing Work-Ready Graduates

The EWER group at Western Sydney University is tackling skill shortages in the nursing workforce.

With the number of nurses in New South Wales soon to fall short of patient demand, researchers at Western Sydney University’s School of Nursing and Midwifery are hard at work finding innovative ways to ensure those entering the profession are ready to join and fully participate in the workforce.

Tadesse Chinkie was drawn to a career in nursing. But when he came to Australia as a refugee from Ethiopia and began his studies at Western Sydney University in 2016, he faced the language challenges common to many in the University’s ethnically-diverse student population.

Fortunately, the School of Nursing and Midwifery is leading a world-class research initiative into improving literacy and numeracy in the nursing workforce, said Professor Yenna Salamonson, one of the leaders of the Education and Workforce Research group, or EWER.

In one of their studies, the group has looked at the impact of students’ language abilities. “Our nursing students are very diverse — probably the most diverse in Australasia,” Salamonson said. And that has implications for student outcomes.

Need to know

  • There is a predicted nursing shortage for NSW.
  • It is important to ensure nursing graduates are work-ready.
  • EWER are identifying ways to help graduates operate successfully within the workforce.

“At EWER, we’ve repeatedly found that we can predict student performance based on how much English they speak.” 

This was particularly evident among nursing students, more so than in other fields of study, such as engineering, which Salamonson said may reflect the focus on writing and essays in nursing programs.

Since then, the School has employed professional communication and academic literacy staff to aid nursing students, including Chinkie, who come from non English-speaking backgrounds. 

“They helped me a lot by checking my assignments and showing me how to study, how to do assignments and improve my essay writing,” says Chinkie who has passed every subject in his undergraduate nursing degree, and was awarded the Allianz Worldwide Partners Refugee Scholarship.

This is just one of several research projects and interventions that EWER has undertaken in their efforts to ensure that graduates are ready to join the nursing workforce.

Ensuring graduates are ready for the workforce in terms of language skills is one thing, but making sure they can operate successfully within it is another.  This is the subject of another EWER project, led by Salamonson, which investigates how a ‘clan’-type organisational culture, characterised by collaborative, family-like teams with shared goals and values, influences how a nursing workplace successfully functions.

“What we’ve found for nurses and midwives who perceive high ‘clan’ in their work environment, is that they report a better workplace safety culture. It also affects satisfaction,” Salamonson says. 

The challenge is figuring out how to encourage this collaborative ‘clan’ culture in nursing units. To that end, the EWER group is involved in an interventional study, in partnership with South Western Sydney Local Health District to see what approaches might facilitate this culture, and how that affects outcomes.

“At EWER, we’re identifying needs and working with our clinical colleagues to address them,” Salamonson says. 

Meet the Academic | Professor Yenna Salamonson

Dr. Yenna Salamonson is a Professor and the Director of Academic Workforce at the School of Nursing & Midwifery. She has committed over 30 years of her academic career to creating a positive learning experience for students within nursing education, and at the same time, worked in the clinical setting as a Clinical Nurse Specialist, in Intensive Care, High Dependency and Coronary Care units.

Yenna’s program of research focuses on evaluating and improving the quality of teaching and learning to build nursing workforce capacity towards better healthcare outcomes. In addition, her scope of research extends to patient safety in acute care, cardiovascular nursing and organisational culture. Yenna has expertise in survey construction, psychometric assessment and mixed methods designs.

She has undertaken several educational projects to improve the academic performance of nursing students for whom English is an additional language, and has authored more than 160 peer-reviewed papers and numerous conference proceedings. Yenna has supervised 21 research students to completion, and is currently supervising 10 research students.

Yenna has been a recipient of a number of teaching awards.In 2008, her teaching excellence was formally recognised within the university where she works with two teaching awards, the: i) College of Health & Science Citation for Outstanding Contribution to Student Learning; and ii) Winner of the Vice-Chancellor’s Excellence Award for Teaching. In 2009, she received a national Australian Learning and Teaching Council citation award for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning and in 2011, she was awarded the College Teaching Excellence Award.


Future-Care is published for Western Sydney University by Nature Research Custom Media, part of Springer Nature.