NZNO's Blog

Growing our advocacy out of the ward


advocacyGuest blogger Erin Kennedy is a senior CCDHB delegate. She has a long history as a union advocate and is passionate about empowering members to work together towards a better working life.

Last week, Radio New Zealand asked to speak to a nurse about what it’s really like working at Auckland DHB in an environment that is understaffed, under resourced and, at times, unsafe.

Not surprisingly, there were no volunteers from Auckland’s current staff.  Most nurses are swift to advocate for patients on immediate clinical matters, but not so forward in publicly speaking out for patients and the health system, fearful that they risk their jobs if they do so.

This is a real worry.  How often have you shuddered at a horror story told in the tearoom, or heard a colleague declare that “I wouldn’t let anyone from my family stay on that ward…it’s just not safe”.  Surely the public has a right to know what is happening in our hospitals.

Dunedin nurses acted together this month to speak out about safety issues in the south. Sadly, nurses all over the country face the same problems – unsafe staffing levels, difficulty taking minimum breaks, problems getting study leave to maintain their PDRP and rosters which do not meet the MECA.  No wonder they feel burnt out and unsupported.

There are many ways nurses can make their voices heard. Speak to your local MP – most are readily contactable, particularly in an election year. Explain to relatives why bells cannot always be answered promptly, or why there is nobody to watch their demented relative and keep them safe. Take five minutes to fill out a reportable event documenting problems. Yes, reportable event forms disappear into a black hole at most hospitals but they still provide essential data when safe staffing and other issues are under the spotlight.

But the most effective voice nurses have is through NZNO – go to meetings, have a voice and keep your delegates and organisers informed about what is happening in your area.

5 thoughts on “Growing our advocacy out of the ward

  1. I do agree that nurses are slow to come forward. If this is the case, how can we make progress? A lot of our residents can’t complain so it is up to the relatives and I do encourage them.
    I do not think there is enough respect given to the nurses by management, they seem to listen but we don’t see action.
    In a situation I had myself, I was all set to complain to the union who could intervene on my behalf, but I did not do it as I feared that I would be hounded out of my job when I was not ready for this.

  2. Ou rDHB ward tried complaining to NZNO – where did it get us ? Nowhere – the people involved were bullied from that day forward – our managers need to work on the wards for a month – do our rosters – go without breaks – get unpaid for overtime and then drag themselves home then they may understand what we are putting up with. People are too afraid to complain for fear of losing their jobs or being harassed. CNMs of DHB wards hold too much power – if we complain it affects not only your current position but any future employment as they are the ones that do your performance appraisal and give you a reference. Nurses would love to complain but they are caught between a rock and a hard place. We trained to work in a caring profession but our managers are brutal towards staff. The empathy and caring has gone out of nursing and has been replaced by managers that are only interested in balancing the budget – people count for nothing now and safety has gone out the door. The culture of blame is alive and well – if you take time with your patients you are told you have poor time management. Nurses cant win. NZNO needs to be more powerful and meet the managers head on. The problem maybe that the managers also belong to NZNO – is this right ? So how can NZNO protect us both ?

  3. Relatives often do not complain as they think if they do so, the care of their loved one May be. Affected. It is also too easy for management to blame the staff at the coal face if a complaint is received, rather than trying to fix the problem . A lot of staff in aged care facilities want to stay under the radar, so management do not target them.

  4. It’s not just a matter of complaining to NZNO. It’s a matter of taking an active part in your union by attending meetings and supporting your delegate. Look at the small number of members who turn up to meetings on our MECA. Yet those who don’t come along generally still have strong views on the final outcome.

  5. Erin why are nurses sick of trying to fight for their rights?? Firstly if we do we get targeted and secondly please explain this to me – How can our union – NZNO protect both nurses on the floor and Managers within the same union – the very people who are often dishing out the bullying behaviour we all complain about and the conditions we are deprived of – eg breaks, O/T unsafe patient loads to name a few. Surely this is a conflict of interest and it is time for members to vote that Managers must resign from our union once they reach a certain level or form their own section or union. I would be interested to see what others think ??

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