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Nursing Recruitment Crisis Looms in Primary Health

21 February 2006

New Survey Shows Nursing Recruitment Crisis Looms in Primary Health

Results of a new survey of primary health nursing staff, conducted by the New Zealand Nurses Organisation, signal a looming recruitment crisis in the sector, unless the pay gap is closed between them and their counterparts in public
hospitals (DHBs).

“Clearly the nursing shortage in primary health will rapidly become a crisis if our members remain underpaid and undervalued,” said NZNO spokesperson Chris Wilson. “The survey shows the pay gap is the single biggest single reason for nursing shortages in GP surgeries, accident and medical centres, Iwi providers and community health centres.”

NZNO is currently negotiating with over 650 primary health employers for a Primary Health Multi Employer Collective Agreement (MECA) covering nearly 3000 NZNO members.

95% of NZNO members who participated in the survey listed pay parity as the top priority needed to keep them in primary health.

By July this year, primary health nurses will receive $160 a week less than they would earn if they took their skills and experience to their local DHB.

“Our members in primary health are working harder and taking greater responsibility for delivering heath care in their communities,” said Chris Wilson. “Many have years of experience in public hospitals and report that their work in primary health is at least as demanding and complex as the work in DHBs.”

Over 90% of survey participants identified inadequate support on the job and poor working conditions as their second priority.

Members reported that over 60% of their workplaces now have difficulty recruiting new staff and over 55% of the nurses and other health workers have considered leaving their job in the past six months.

Personal comments added to survey responses revealed a dedication and commitment to the job, but also revealed a high level of frustration at the undervaluing of their role as the backbone of community health.

Over 80% of respondents work in GP surgeries, with the balance mainly from Accident and Medical clinics and Iwi providers. Around 70% are practice nurses in GP surgeries or registered nurses working in primary health.

Primary Health MECA negotiations resume on Thursday, 23 February. NZNO is calling on Government to provide the additional funding required for parity.

Below are some of the personal comments NZNO members in primary health care included on their surveys.

“Practice nurses have a very varied role and every bit is priceless”.

“I will only stay in primary health if the pay is increased.”

“Before the DHB nurses’ pay increase we had a waiting list of nurses keen to join our service. We now have two vacancies we are unable to fill. One nurse was keen to join us but withdrew her application because she would have had to take a $10,000 pay cut.”

“I worked in a hospital setting for 15 years and thought practice nurses had it ‘easy’. But when I joined practice nursing I realised practice nurses are just as valuable as hospital nurses and other nurses in different fields.”

“Practice nurses play a huge rolein immunisation, smears, new campaigns for vaccines and help recognise illnesses first hand. Practice nurses offer a huge amount of support and information over the phone.”

“We had difficulty getting experienced nurses applications for a position two years ago. Goodness knows what would happen now with the ever widening pay gap.”

“Please help us get more new nurses, interested in working in primary health.”

“There is not enough time in the day to do the amount of work now expected of us. The role of the practice nurse has increased enormously.”

“Trust me – primary health nursing is specialised, extremely important, very busy, very tiring and very satisfying. We need to be precise, efficient, well skilled, diplomatic, patient and adaptable. I work harder and under more stress practice nursing than I ever experienced in hospital work. But I get less pay after 12 years experience as a practice nurse. I’m worth MORE!”

“It is getting more and more difficult to survive on our current salaries. It is impossible to save for the future and that is scary.”


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