Ai Ling talks about her background, and what drives HealthX's success in international nurse and carer recruitment.

"I grew up in a small fishing village at the southernmost tip of the Malaysian peninsula. It’s a very peaceful place, but once I entered adulthood, I had a yearning to travel. I’d always wanted to live in Australia and in 2006, I moved to regional New South Wales to study. My background and story are very similar to many of the nurses that I employ.

After graduating, I got my first job as an interpreter and international coordinator for a manufacturing company. I was quickly promoted into an international recruitment role, specialising in labour agreements and visa applications. I’ve always been ambitious and I was fortunate to be offered a role as an international recruitment manager for a large blue collar labour hire in Queensland. In 2018, I accepted a recruitment role at HealthX.

With a growing demand for international nurses in Australia, and the popularity of the HealthX visa sponsorship program, I transitioned to my first role as a specialist recruiter for the Asia region. I quickly progressed to International Recruitment Manager overseeing all international recruitment. Now, I am Director of Recruitment for HealthX and oversee recruitment across all short and long term positions. My background and story are very similar to many of the nurses that I hire. We share a desire to travel and learn and have the stamina to keep on going, even if at times, we face adversity.  I am a citizen of Australia, and whilst I visit my family in Malaysia as often as I can, I am so happy to call Australia home".

HealthX specialises in employing international nurses and care workers to help the growing workforce shortages in Australia. Why are there not enough domestic nurses and care workers to fill these roles? 

"That’s a question that many people ask. Australia has a growing ageing population and with this, increasing rates of chronic diseases, putting the healthcare system under tremendous pressure.  There simply aren’t enough qualified and experienced Australian nurses and carers to meet demand. 

Especially since the Covid 19 pandemic, the Australian healthcare workforce has suffered from worker burn out, and many workers have exited the profession. Border closures and the subsequent lack of skilled migration have further expedited the shortage of qualified workers".

Given that healthcare workforce shortages are true of most developed countries, how do salaries, benefits, working conditions in Australia compare to other countries, for example, the UK, Canada, New Zealand, Ireland, Middle East and Asia?

"Australia has amongst the highest pay rates, attractive benefits and working conditions of any developed country. 

This is mainly because Australia recognises the total years of post-graduate registered nurse experience, years of overseas registered nurse experience, and these factors are all considered when determining the pay scale. 

Australia also practices equal employment opportunities, that means, international nurses and carers at the same level with the same amount of experience get paid exactly the same amount as Australian nurses. 

We also have a much better nurse-to-patient ratio in Australia, and a very respectful work environment.  The nursing profession is highly valued and regarded.

Under the Temporary Skills Shortage visa, a sponsored registered nurse is entitled to bring direct family members with them to live in Australia.  Due to the high demand for nurses, nursing also offers a straightforward pathway to permanent residency.  And of course, with its amazing climate and natural beauty, Australia is famous for a high quality of life and work life balance.  

Unlike nurses employed in Asia or the Middle East, International nurses and carers working in Australia are entitled to a retirement fund as part of their benefits. For the duration of their employment, employers pay a percentage of the salary into a retirement fund". 

How difficult is it for international nurses to convert their qualifications and be recognised in Australia?  How does HealthX help?

"This all depends on their nursing qualification and their country of practical nursing experience. The process is quite complex and involves getting a nursing registration called AHPRA, and for most, passing an English language exam.  The HealthX recruitment team are experts in this field and will advise and support each applicant according to their individual situation needs".  

HealthX is not an agency, you are a direct employer.  Can you explain the employment structure and process and how you work with partnering healthcare providers to employ international nurses and care workers.

"We work with over 250 healthcare providers across Australia in various nursing specialities and also aged care. 

When we receive a job vacancy from a healthcare facility, our team take a detailed job brief to understand the role and criteria. This is crucial for us to make sure we will put the nursing skills and profession with the right experience into the role. 

We have a very thorough recruitment process.  For international applicants, all applicants need to go through screening, video call interviews or face-to-face interviews in the country in which they are currently located, and a reference checking process.

We are very transparent in our recruitment process and also in providing job and location information to our job applicants.  No surprises for anyone.

Our applicants are involved in choosing the appropriate location and role. With ongoing support from the recruitment team, we make sure we match nurses to full time positions that align with their skills set and take into consideration their personal and family circumstances. 

Our point of difference is offering the highest quality service to applicants and healthcare providers at all times. We do not charge any agency or recruitment fees.

We also have a highly skilled in house migration team, to support with the visa application process and to assist applicants when settling into their new community and workplace. HealthX also provides ongoing support during their contract.”

HealthX mainly supports healthcare providers in regional locations. Please share with us, the reasons these environments are so popular for international nurses and care workers when settling into Australia.

"Firstly, it’s important to establish that when we talk about regional, we don’t necessarily mean the isolated outback.  Most of our regional healthcare partners are in large towns that are very accessible to metropolitan cities. Many have regional airports with daily flights to Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. 

It’s no secret that to enjoy life, it’s nice to have some extra money.  The cost of living in some of Australia’s regional towns is much lower than, say, the state capitals of Melbourne, Sydney or Brisbane, so lots of potential to save and lower housing costs. Regional towns also tend to offer a better environment for family life, more space for kids to run around, parks, nature. 

Many of our nurses have come from large cities like Singapore, Dubai, Dublin and have struggled to achieve work life balance. As a HealthX regional nurse, you can still enjoy full time employment without being stuck in traffic to go to work or have to commute by train for 30-40min each way. That leaves more time to spend with family and pursuing other interests, but you still have access to great education and other amenities". 

For five years now you’ve been interviewing and employing nurses and aged care workers from many different backgrounds and countries. Aside from qualifications, can you share the top three things you look for when employing HealthX nurses and care workers.

  1. Commitment and motivation 
  2. Compassionate personality and positive attitude 
  3. Ability to work well in a team

You sell the benefits of working with HealthX every day, but if you had to pick one single feature, what would it be? 

"The care factor from HealthX team through every part of the employment process. 

People often tell me that HealthX sounds too good to be true.  We are real, we do what we say, and we do it with drive, enthusiasm and a genuine desire to make a positive impact on our nurses and the Australian healthcare system. I'm confident that if you asked our nurses and carers in work, they would agree."