Australia's peak nursing union says priority should be given to local, unemployed nurses to help with the coronavirus pandemic.
At the same time, the country's top doctors are warning Australia's health workforce could face up to 30 per cent loss as workers call in sick.
The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation says more than 2500 unemployed local nursing graduates should be prioritised.
"We have unemployed graduates who are out there and willing to work," Lori-Anne Sharp told AAP.
The government has announced the visa relaxations for 20,000 student nurses as part of a swathe of measures to fight coronavirus.
But Ms Sharp said using international students to bolster the workforce was only one part of the solution.
Australian Medical Association president Tony Bartone said the student nurse announcement was all about increasing the health system's capacity to deal with absenteeism.
"It's about trying to assist with the expected demand at different places," Dr Bartone told AAP.
"There is a fairly tight supply factor at the moment and if you take 20 or 30 per cent out at the expected potential max absenteeism, then you're going to have a real hole in your workforce."
Dr Barton said international students would be supervised by qualified professionals.
"They are not going to be thrown into the deep end," Dr Barton said.
Ms Sharp said the government needed to guarantee the international student nurses were properly protected and paid.
The government also needed to ensure they were trained on proper hygiene and use of personal protective equipment, she said.
Australian Associated Press