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.