Nurses fed up: Strike looming


So, it is come to this. After negotiations and various pay rise offers have failed, industrial action in the nursing sector is about to rock the country.

Due to the (often misinformed) perception of the public, that by going on strike, nurses are somehow endangering patients, I believe nurses have been reluctant to carry out significant strike action.

This perception I believe has no credibility. The very vast majority of nurses would never think of knowingly putting their patients or somebody elses patients in jeopardy. They work in conditions that are hugely demanding on them physically and mentally. They are groped, spat on, verbally abused or otherwise mistreated by patients sometimes for the most minor thing, or simply because they were not quick enough responding to a call for assistance. They can work hours that mean they finish mentally and physically exhausted but somehow have to recover in time to do another shift maybe only several hours later: circumstances in which mistakes become inevitable.

A nurse to me is a blood and flesh angel of mercy. I would be dead if it was not for a nurse on 15 September 1989 (my mother) when I collapsed in the hallway at home with severe hypertension.

Nurses have a number of vital roles that District Health Boards, the Ministry of Health and anyone lucky enough to have avoided hospital might not always realize. A nurse is often the eyes and ears of a hospital when dealing with patients, because in the course of everyday nursing, conversations they have with patients will tell them a lot about how they are as well as giving them opportunities to sight visual changes.

Yes, a nurse might be required to dispense medication, do things like record blood pressure, make sure any dietary restrictions in pre-operation circumstances are being adhered to. But they also have to keep a detailed and quite lengthy paper record that that is time consuming, demanding and can have significant consequences if improperly kept.

I am honestly not sure how nurses manage to cope. Based on the descriptions given in newspaper and online news articles, nurses get shocking treatment for the service they are expected to deliver. And there is probably nothing that can prepare them for the mental demands placed on them – medical school is about learning the roles of nurses, the procedures that they need to perform and so forth, not about surviving a demanding day.

So, if these nurses strike – and in some respects, I hope they do – it might be the wake up call the Government, the District Health Boards and the public need. The current situation cannot be allowed to continue and that there are potentially major consequences if it does.

Would you rather a nurse is worked to breaking point and administers morphine when it was not needed because s/he was too mentally broken to realize the wrong medicine was being administered? Or would you rather the nurse, having gone on strike and – hopefully been noticed – is working in an environment where s/he no longer feels broken at the end of the shift?

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