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Celebrating The Work Of Nurses

May 10, 2002

Celebrating The Work Of Nurses On International Nurses Day

The theme for International Nurses Day (IND) this year is Nurses: Always there for you — Caring for Families. May 12 is the day the profession around the world marks its founder Florence Nightingale’s birthday.

This theme is somewhat ironic, given the state of nursing in New Zealand today and that IND falls on Mother’s Day, Nurses’ Organisation president Jane O’Malley says.

“There are not enough nurses. Those who have remained in our health system work in stressful conditions. Workloads are too often unsafe, patient care is too often compromised and nurses’ views and contributions are too often overlooked.”

O’Malley says nurses’ work environments do not reflect the fact 95 percent of the nursing workforce is women, most with family commitments.

“Many nurses are mothers who find it difficult to care for their own families while working as nurses. Nurses want better pay, more respect, more flexible working hours and more family-friendly policies, eg accessible childcare facilities, so they can care for their families as well as care for others.”

Nurses made up one third of the total health workforce and provided care in a huge variety of settings, from schools to factories, from remote rural communities to hi-tech specialised units in tertiary hospitals, and from birth to death. If nurses were under stress, the whole health system was under stress.

Problems recruiting and retaining nurses placed government health strategies at risk.

“NZNO welcomes this Government’s focus on primary care through the primary health care strategy but unless money is directed at recruiting, retaining and returning nurses to the workforce, the strategy can’t be implemented,” O’Malley said.

She also said health inequalities between Maori and non-Maori would not be eliminated while so few Maori entered nursing.

“When inequality is so obvious and Maori and Pacific health statistics so appalling, we must have strategies to attract Maori and Pacific people to nursing. We expect the Government to work with us to address this nursing crisis. It is a crisis not only for nursing but also for our whole health system. Against this background it is hard to find much to celebrate on International Nurses’ Day. But despite their difficult working conditions, nurses continue to provide care to communities, families and individuals. Nursing care continues to makes a difference in people’s lives and that is always worth celebrating,” O’Malley said.


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