Monthly Archives

August 2020

Aged Care, Business, Health Care, Jenny Jackson, Leadership, Nurses

Nursing: Reflections on the delights and disappointments

It’s been a long time since I have been so close to the front line of healthcare in Australia. Throughout my time in senior leadership roles in hospitals, community health, women’s health and family violence, my nursing qualifications, knowledge and experience have been invaluable. They’ve helped me articulate evidence based arguments for funding, change of policy and new programs. They’ve helped me provide compassionate care in crisis situations – at work and in my personal life. They’ve provided a well-rounded view of health and wellbeing and a commitment to forever learning. I have never lost my love of the profession and my deep respect for those working in the multitude of roles within it.

Working in a leadership role as part of the COVID-19 response in Aged Care, I have been both delighted and disappointed.

Delighted by the generosity of nurses and health workers in their resident and patient care, often in the face of personal risk and potential harm.

Delighted by the “roll your sleeves up and lean in” kind of team work not often seen elsewhere.

Delighted by the understanding, gratitude and acceptance of those so heavily impacted – the residents, patients and their loved ones.

Disappointed that it is not unusual (in fact, it is very common) for nurses to go entire shifts without a toilet, water or meal break and to work unpaid overtime without having a choice in the matter. Balm for cracked dry lips, electrolytes replacement and headaches – all part of the dehydration they’re experiencing. Not for one or two shifts, but for all. For the “love” of it? No. Because they care. Because there is often no other alternative. Because nurses choose to care for another before themselves.

Disappointed that there are still not enough qualified and experienced staff to support those less experienced or qualified.

Disappointed with the fragmentation of the system despite the Royal Commission in to Aged Care and what we in the field have known for too long.

Disappointed that while nurses are rated as one of, if not “the” most respected profession, that the rate of pay for nurses is appalling.

Disappointed that what nursing is and isn’t is still not well understood by many. It’s certainly not all bedpans and baths, although this is, of course a component of overall care. The requirements for nurses to have finely tuned patient assessment and management skills are immense. The critical thinking that nurses do, always working with medical staff to develop a plan of care, not just blindly following orders. In fact, experienced nurses frequently guide junior doctors and help them make decisions based on their assessments and monitoring of the patient. Nurses are with the patient 24-hours a day. The knowledge of medications – and the consequences of administration and use are exceptional and have the potential to save or take lives.

Disappointed that there is little genuine recognition that nurses are with us as we take our first breath. And our last. There is great responsibility in this privilege.

Disappointed that the connection between how hard (albeit rewarding) the job is and the loss of expertise from the profession with the rates of pay, are still not being directly linked and addressed. A nurse should not “have” to work regular weekend, evening shifts or night shifts just to make a decent wage. Other than nurses, who else with minimum 3-year degrees (and often further degrees and qualifications after that) would do this job for $30-$36 p/hour? Back in the late 1980’s we had a slogan… “A nurses dedication doesn’t pay the rent”. Sadly, it’s just as true today.

Disappointed that nurse : patient ratios are not mandated in all sectors. It is not enough to leave it up to private providers to “do the right thing” because while many do the right thing, there are many who don’t.

EVERYONE I have spoken to says what an amazing job nurses do. It is absolutely time for us to reward nurses for a fair days work with a fair days pay. We will all benefit from this in one way or another. It is the right thing to do, so let’s do it.

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