Warrnambool will face a shortage of nurses in the coming years if it doesn't do more to attract the professionals, according to the chief executive officer of the Australian College of Nursing.
Kylie Ward was in the city on Monday for the National Nursing Now Roadshow.
She said nationally there would be thousands of vacancies for nurses by 2030 and the health outcomes for people living in regional areas would be negatively affected.
Ms Ward said there needed to be greater inclusion of nurses in policy development and implementation.
"We need to change our models of care," she said.
Running until the end of 2020, the bicentenary of Florence Nightingale's birth, the Nursing Now campaign aims to raise the profile and status of nurses, enhance their influence and maximise their contributions to ensure that everyone everywhere has access to health and health care.
Ms Ward said nurses had a very challenging job and needed to feel respected and appreciated.
"If communities and government invest in nursing, communities will have better health outcomes," she said.
"We need to raise awareness of nursing's contribution to universal healthcare."
In addition to that, Ms Ward said she wanted to encourage more males to enter the profession.
She said for several decades the ratio of females to males in the industry was 90 to 10.
"Generally speaking nursing is traditionally female dominated and we want to address that," Ms Ward said.
She said typical reactions to males entering the profession needed to change.
"The main focus is to challenge society that it's OK for men to care," Ms Ward said.
She said while there were nursing shortages looming, the ACU was committed to only encouraging people who were truly dedicated to helping others to enter the profession.
Ms Ward said the ACU also wanted hospitals in rural and regional areas to offer a range of placement opportunities for nurses.
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