NZNO's Blog

Older people deserve a little more of our time


Lyn Shirley is a Registered Nurse who works in aged care. She is also a Shout Out member leader and delegate for NZNO. Lyn’s involvement in Shout Out for Health led her to speak to M.P.s about how health under-funding is affecting the aged care sector. A public meeting in Nelson held by two political parties was the perfect opportunity for her share her nursing experience.


“I feel very strongly that the issues nurses and other staff face in aged care need to be better understood by politicians and the public. Both staff and residents are impacted by under-funding and short-staffing, as is the whole of the health sector. With an aging population, more families will have to experience these problems soon if we don’t better plan and fund services now.

Elderly people who have just entered an aged care setting are vulnerable. They are more often high needs or even in end of life care. Nurses and other staff need to spend time with them to reassure them about the journey they are going through, moving out of their own homes and away from their communities and the people they know. Sometimes they can be confused about what is happening with their health. This is why it’s really important there are enough staff who can explain to them clearly and calmly what we are doing for them. For this to happen in aged care we need more government funding. All MPs need to be aware of our situation. After all, they may well be in an aged care home one day too!

Way back in 2011 I was involved in the Caring Counts report on the aged care sector, and I didn’t know what had happened to the recommendations of that report. I suspected not a lot, given my experiences working in the sector.

When there was a public meeting in Nelson on aged care earlier this year, I was keen to go. Labour Deputy Leader at the time, Annette King and Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei were speaking and answering questions from people at the meeting, as well as Rachel Boyack, the new Labour candidate for Nelson. The public comments at the meeting matched my own experiences as a nurse working in aged care – it really validates our clinical expertise on the need for safe staffing for our elderly. There were a couple of student nurses there too who spoke with passion and confidence about the issues facing our sector.

After the meeting I managed to speak directly to an MP about some of these continuing issues; the inadequate staffing levels, the increasing workload due to the residents being more unwell, and problems with the way people entering care are assessed.

I spoke about needing more time to carry out the social and clinical assessments and interventions that we have trained for, and that it was so important in our jobs not to be rushed. This is how to treat the patients with the dignity they deserve. I also described how as nurses we need to not be so overburdened with work that we barely have time to think. The paperwork required of registered nurse has become more demanding. On some days I could be on the computer for hours, taking valuable time away from caring for the residents. I became a nurse to deliver care, not just reports!

We need more nurses to work in aged care. I know a lot of nurses in aged care experience moral distress and burnout when they can’t act in their patient’s best interests because they are short on staff, equipment, and time. We are experts in our own jobs. Part of being the best advocates for our patients is making sure their issues, and ours, get through to decision makers.

I felt really good being able to share just a little of my experiences and hearing others do the same at this meeting. I encourage our other members to make an appointment with their MP too. It’s a simple way you can get your voice heard, and your local NZNO staff will support you.”

To take action on health funding, contact your local NZNO office to be put in touch with a member leader like Lyn, or plan your own MP visit with the help of your local staff. You can also sign the open letter on health funding by leaving a comment at the bottom of this blog post.

3 thoughts on “Older people deserve a little more of our time

  1. Without healthy people there IS no money, no profit.

  2. This shows how skewed society’s values have changed. Nursing has become very task orientated and evidence based, however the reason why most of us went nursing, i.e to care and to heal is often on the back-burner instead of being at the forefront of what we do. We must continue striving as Jean Watson says ” to see the Spirit filled person behind the disease”, even in little ways, a kind glance, a minute or so of true listening and connection. We must not give up what patient’s and their families want and need from nurse’s. We must stand united with the NZNO and tackle the issues with one voice. As individuals we cannot win against health management at government level, as we are either left battered and bruised and burnt out or we are worked out as a dissenting voice in the wilderness. The challenge is to stand together as we did in 1999 in the Waikato when we said enough is enough!
    Go Well. Be Well

  3. I would love to spend more time with my residents getting to know them and helping make their days more memorable. Sadly I have many tasks to do and need to “supervise’ 3 + 1/2 caregivers on an AM shift or 2 1/2 caregivers on a PM shift. A senior caregiver (or Enrolled Nurse) on each shift would be wonderful but it comes down to money. It is great that the caregivers have got their “living wage” and now it is the turn of the Registered Staff! Give us the resources we need to do our job and give quality time and care to our older citizens.

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