NZNO's Blog

Nursing shortages – beyond crisis. Is there an upside?

6 Comments

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.”[1]

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.

Last word…

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.


[1]     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)

6 thoughts on “Nursing shortages – beyond crisis. Is there an upside?

  1. I have just returned to work, January of this year following a significant break from Nursing. I am employed in a very busy surgical, vascular, urology ward. It seems the medical profession are unaware of the complexities of the Nursing shortage crisis mentioned. I totally embrace the need for all medical/ Surgical multidisciplinary team’s to understand the potential dangers of the Nursing crisis. Thank you for advocating on our behalf

  2. The qualified international nurses from Phillipines and India are excellent nures, across a broad range of fields. They want to come to NZ and establish their family life here. After NZ residency they are then able to go and work and live in Australia

  3. I have been a RN for 38 years having trained in NZ I worked overseas for 20 years then returned to NZ with my family. The working conditions in NZ for nurses are unbelievably broken and brutal. The current crisis I believe was advanced by John Keys government raping services and taking huge funds away from health care. Currently the DHBs need to plead with our current Government and Ministry of Health to please pay Nurses what we deserve in our Pay Equity claim. We’ve been waiting for this for well too long. Please stop nurses constantly leaving the profession they love over burning out. I’m working the next three days on 1500-2330 shifts and I already know how short staffed we are, it truly is like walking into a war zone in our largest NZ tertiary hospital. We need a break from somewhere. My sister has worked in Australia for 25 years, she now says that if the pay equity increase is in fact “Life changing “ then she will move back to NZ as will hundreds of people. Hurry up and make our lives better!!!

    • I am right there with you. We must get pay equity and then equitable conditions right to encourage recruitment and retention for all nurses everywhere in NZ. Nurses will then come back home, IQNS will continue to come, and we will encourage people to take up nursing as a career of real and recognised value. We will then be able to provide nursing care that meets our professional standards of practice and ensure best patient outcomes.

  4. I am right there with you. We must get pay equity and then equitable conditions right to encourage recruitment and retention for all nurses everywhere in NZ. Nurses will then come back home, IQNS will continue to come, and we will encourage people to take up nursing as a career of real and recognised value. We will then be able to provide nursing care that meets our professional standards of practice and ensure best patient outcomes.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s