Anne Daniels, President
New Zealand Nurses Organisation, Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa (NZNO)
NZNO Kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku and I have repeatedly stated that DHBs and communities in Aotearoa New Zealand are beyond crisis when it comes to having enough appropriately trained and experienced nurses to do the job well. A crisis can be defined as a “time of intense difficulty or danger”. It’s also when important decisions must be made, and we are at that time.
Why (do we have to make a decision)?
Older nurses are retiring in droves; others are changing careers; too few are entering nursing study; and internationally qualified nurses (IQNs) are facing immigration barriers. This all makes the work pile higher on those left in the profession.
Nurses are working overtime and are repeatedly asked to give up valuable days off. As research affirms, exhausted nurses make mistakes and patients suffer as a result. So, despite this pressure, we’re hearing more and more that nurses are starting to say no. They’re saying, “I don’t know how much more we I can take. If things keep going the way they are, we’re going to lose patients and, as a nurse, that’s just too much to bear.”
National and international research shows nurses are feeling increasingly embattled. It’s not just the workloads or pay; it’s facing the “challenge of knowing what care patients need but being unable to provide it due to constraints beyond the nurses control.”
On top of this are inequities across the health sector experienced by Māori and others in Aotearoa New Zealand. Nurses are leaving or reducing their hours of work, not responding to texts asking them to work on their time off, and in some countries, despite covid, they are striking.
What (are we going to decide) and when?
Our calls for action have been ignored for decades and we can’t wait for Government or employers any longer. Even though it will take years to overcome the complex issues we face, we must start now. It will take collaboration from the community, academia, all levels of health care and Government to work in real partnership with NZNO (as the largest representative of health workers) to develop creative solutions.
NZNO’s leadership and Board of Directors are working on an overarching campaign to ensure all nurses everywhere, work together to win the political and resourcing commitments needed to address the nursing shortage crisis permanently.
There is an upside. We always need to know what we’re trying to achieve when we decide to stand up and fight the good fight. Power is generated from the bottom up. At 55,000 strong, we have the power in our hands to shape the future of nursing. We are all in this together and we will win.
 Dean, W., Talbot, S., & Dean, A. (2019). Reframing clinician distress: Moral injury not burnout. Federal Practitioner, 36(9): 400–402. Reframing Clinician Distress: Moral Injury Not Burnout – PMC (nih.gov)