NZNO's Blog

Cleaning out the cupboards

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President Anne Daniels
NZNO Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa

One of my first comments in Kaitaiki as President briefly looked at beginnings. Beginnings suggest there may be an end. It seems that organisations such as ours (NZNO), have natural life cycles. First there is a vision that becomes a reality or start-up when the organisation is formally founded. Next comes growth, followed by sustainability and relevance.

The last stage of an organisation is characterised by stagnation and renewal. It could be argued that NZNO has been at this stage. Our current organisation was founded when nursing was a very different profession than it is today. It reminds me of that feeling you get in spring and decide to clean out the cupboards and start afresh.

Thirty years ago (1 April 1993) NZNO was formed. The amalgamation of the Nurses’ Association and union was an attempt to reduce the dilution of our nursing voice. Disparate voices within our profession have allowed others to fill the void and speak for us in the past. Over the years NZNO work focused largely on beneficial change for its members within a health system structure imposed, dominated, and controlled by others.

Today we must ask ourselves where we need to go as a union from here on in. If we hang on to the old ways of being, and do not clean out our cupboards by challenging the status quo within and without, we will become less relevant as an influential professional group in the health care discourses that will shape our future.

I would like to ask members whether they believe that our current infrastructure, systems, policies, and processes are fit for purpose. For some time now, members representing different sectors of NZNO, have been calling for change. What that change might look like is another question but this all poses an opportunity to look forward. How we make it happen is yet another question.

What I do know is that we need leadership to grow at our grassroots i.e. within our membership. That leadership must also be insightful, able to learn from our past and present so they can be owners of nursing and the role we take, in shaping our health system. Our current health system is not fit for purpose as it is not delivering health care which meets the needs of our indigenous and diverse nation, it remains medical-model-centric, and is a long way from eliminating the social determinant inequities that lead to poor health for many.

Change and real leadership go hand-in-hand. Our current and future leadership must be inclusive, collaborative, consistent in demonstrating tino rangitatiratanga from the start and going forward so we can build a new vision for the future of nursing in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Our union can bring that vision to fruition if we have the will and commitment to do so.

Perhaps we need to think about how we grow our leaders, and develop clear pathways to succession planning (identification, development, and engagement of future leaders)? Where does ‘membership led’ fit into all of this, what does it really mean, and what does it look like?

These questions must be discussed, debated and decided. Above all, NZNO must have a compelling purpose and engage in the mahi that is meaningful and beneficial to our members and those we care for.

A wise woman (Frances Haugen) said not so long ago, “we solve problems together: we don’t solve them alone (Perrigo, 2021). The union is us. Being a member of our union means that every one of us must participate in these conversations and move forward together.

Christiaens, G. (2016). Current issues in Nursing Associations in Policy and Politics in Nursing and Health Care. (Editors: Mason, Gardner, Outlaw, & O’Grady.)

Perrigo, B. (2021). The making of a whistleblower. The Listener, December 6/December 13.

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