Registered Nurse Freya Head
Yesterday I stood tall at the New Zealand Nurses Organisation press conference in Wellington to be part of the public announcement that the 27,000 strong DHB nurse, midwife and health care assistant workforce had rejected once again the DHB offer for the new collective agreement that included a 2% pay increase this year and next. We are simply worth more, deserve more and need more.
We know that the public health service is creaking with the strain of high demand, more complexities of an aging population and suffering in a climate of funding neglect but we also are a workforce that needs looking after so that we can look after others.
A decade of severe underfunding of our public hospitals has taken its toll on everyone and I feel nurses wear the brunt of this in their everyday lives. We are picking up extra shifts and staying later than we should, missing meal breaks, toilet breaks and going home broken, only to put ourselves back together and do it all over again the next day. We are stretched to our absolute capacity and beyond. This is not sustainable and frankly, not fair.
So yes all of this can’t be fixed immediately with a money tree but we do think a better offer can be achieved. We have waited for a long time for a pay boost, as have others, but we cannot wait any longer, we need it now.
Nurses are beyond stressed and this takes its toll on our health, on our families and our personal relationships. It takes its toll in our working relationships with our colleagues and then those in our care also start to feel this pressure and this is just not acceptable to us.
I used to say to my friends “How about a nursing degree, nursing is fantastic.” I am just not saying that anymore. It is not fantastic at the moment.
Nursing can be a rewarding and great career but not when you are burnt out, expected to do more with less and the prospect of actually getting adequate pay to keep up with the cost of living is no where near in sight.
I go home after shifts and wake up in the middle of the night, worried that perhaps those in my charge won’t actually get the medical attention and support they need. I ask myself “How is this the new ‘norm’? Is this acceptable?” and the answer is no, it’s not.
I feel it is time for the government to pull its socks up and face this head on.
We need to attract and retain our great nursing workforce and the meagre crumbs of percentage increases that barely meet inflation just aren’t good enough anymore.
No nurse would look forward to a strike and many will be stressed with the notion of leaving hospitals in a crisis situation and understaffed. We will have a week of action and we really are planning to garner public support for a pay rise.
Too long have we kept the faith, waiting to be recognised and for our pleas to be heard. Too long have we listened to the promises of a better tomorrow for that day to never come. We need action now. Not in a few years or ten years. Now.