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‘Moral distress’ in nurses shows crisis in health sector

15 August 2012 MEDIA STATEMENT

‘Moral distress’ in nurses shows crisis in health sector

A new Massey University study which has found that as many as 48% of the 400-plus nurses surveyed experience ‘moral distress’ to the extent that they wanted to give up nursing, says Labour’s Health Spokesperson Maryan Street.

"This is a worrying revelation in a new study for New Zealand," she said.

"It means that nearly half of those surveyed experienced burnout and depression because they felt moral difficulty in carrying out their job. Most commonly, nurses had moral concerns when they could not deliver the level of patient care they felt they should be able to deliver, because of management pressures to reduce costs.

"Other causes of this moral distress were watching patient care suffer because of a lack of continuity of care, having to carry out tests and treatments which they considered unnecessary, and initiating extensive life-saving actions when the nurse thought they were only unnecessarily prolonging dying.

"We know that our District Health Boards have been underfunded in real terms, despite the Minister's protestations about more money than ever going into health. When DHBs are only replacing nursing positions which become vacant with the CEO's sign off, we know that staffing is being rationed according to cost.

"Nursing staff are being asked to do more and more with less and less. People are sicker when they come to hospital now and clearly from this survey, the staffing levels are insufficient to give patients the sort of care nurses are trained, and want, to give.

"If this survey is not taken as a serious sign of a present or impending crisis in nursing, we will be back to the old recruitment and retention problems of the 2000s which the Labour government had to fix with a major pay jolt for nurses," said Maryan Street.


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