Kerri Nuku, Kaiwhakahaere
NZNO, Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa
There has been lots of talk lately about nursing shortages; the number of vacancies across the country, the number of nurses leaving New Zealand, and how many are migrating to Australia. All these discussions mean nothing if we don’t have the support of a well-resourced action plan to build a sustainable work force, not just for today but for the future.
The latest proposal from National is a scheme to ensure post-graduate nurses are bonded to their work areas for five years. They say they will guarantee a payment of up to $22,500 toward students’ loans. I believe, despite the seeming burden with fishhooks, this is a positive step as it means politicians are starting to discuss the nursing crisis just like we wanted them to.
After all it was the politicians who created this crisis. It is the politicians who control the purse strings for nursing and not us. It is also up to them to determine what a workforce for tomorrow needs to look like.
I have recently returned from the United Nations Permanent Forum for Indigenous Peoples where a rights-based approach to protection of indigenous health and wellbeing topped the agenda. Judging from the political tensions as indigenous peoples recited the struggles they encounter within society’s social structures, the racism they are confronted with, and the lack of resourcing and investment together with deconstructing some of those barriers. It became clear that this could definitely also relate to nursing.
The political power to fund is not held by nurses, therefore the will of nurses is not evident in the recognition or establishment of structures to support and enable nursing to flourish.
The National Day of Action on 15 April was intended to bring about a united, collective voice to call out to these political parties to put nursing on the political agenda with the elections looming, and to help us help our patients on the frontline.
We also called on the public to become a part of rewriting some of the failings within the system. That consumers must be part of any transformational change when they are the people who are directly impacted by any structural changes, funding changes, and any barriers to universal access for health care.
Regardless of the numbers and debate, what we need is a nursing voice that is nationally led and nationally funded with a long-term view we stand by basic principles that every nurse, everywhere deserves to be paid the same. Regardless of working within a GP practice, Primary Health Care, Aged Care or Te Whatu Ora, every nurse practitioner, registered or enrolled nurse, every midwife and every health care assistant needs to be supported and recognised as part of the wider health workforce because every one of these people contributes positively to the health outcomes of our communities.