Better pay and recognition for skilled-up ENs

 

The NSWNA’s 2008 pay claim seeks to recognise and reward ENs for their rapidly growing contribution to health care delivery across NSW.

When successful aerobics instructor and restaurateur Vicki Peters was visiting a friend in hospital in 1997, she had what can only be described as a vocational epiphany.

She remembers turning to her husband and saying out of the blue, ‘Honey, I think I want to be a nurse!’

Ten years later, Vicki epitomises the new generation of highly-skilled ENs for whom the NSWNA is seeking better recognition and recompense in its current pay campaign.

Vicki spent two years as an AiN at Westmead Hospital before returning to her hometown of Taree as an EN. Since then she has been continually increasing her skills through various courses and programs – attaining her EN Medication Endorsement as part of a pilot program at Manning Base Hospital and her Certificate IV in wound care and emergency nursing from TAFE through distance education. She was a member of the NSWNA Enrolled Nurse Working Party, sat on the Manning Base Hospital’s Nurses Advisory Council and spoke at the NSWNA’s Professional Day conference three years ago.

Vicki’s current qualifications will allow her to undertake the new Advanced Diploma of Nursing commencing this year at TAFE.

As an integral member of Manning Base Hospital’s High Dependency Unit (HDU), she is now qualified to administer lifesaving medications and perform many other advanced practices such as catheterisation and cannulation.

‘It has been incredibly labour intensive doing up to three hours study daily working long shifts. Without the support of my family it simply would not have been possible.’

Until the NSWNA negotiated a $15 a week pay rise for EENs in 2005 there had been no recent additional base pay rises to reward the professional development of ENs like Vicki.

NSWNA Assistant General Secretary Judith Kiejda said the current EEN pay scale has been an improvement in recognising ENs greater scope of practice but more needs to be done.

‘It’s time to go to the next step and reward ENs’ increased work value in other areas of practice,’ she said.

The NSWNA’s 2008 Fair Conditions, Fair Pay claim seeks to make life a little fairer for nurses like Vicki by expanding the classifications of ENs so they can be paid more fairly for their increased skills and their rapidly growing contribution to health care delivery across NSW.

This reflects in the new national TAFE qualifications for ENs at Certificate IV, Diploma and Advanced Diploma levels that ensure ENs are appropriately prepared to perform these evolving roles.

The NSWNA pay claim, currently lodged with NSW Health, also seeks the insertion of a new classification of Enrolled Nurse Specialist for ENs (with specialty qualifications or experience) who undertakes an extended role authorised by their employer.

A main thrust of the NSWNA pay claim is to attract and retain enough experienced nurses and midwives to care for the growing and ageing population in NSW and foster a culture of professional development among nurses so that skills are not wasted or lost.

Judith believes it is vital that we attract and retain more nurses like Vicki.

‘Vicki exemplifies the kind of EN who has become an integral part of the contemporary health care system. It is essential to the future of health care in NSW that the skills of these dedicated nurses are recognised and rewarded,’ Judith said.

To Vicki, nursing was always a vocation and money was never her primary motivation – but she knows only too well how important it is to be paid fairly.

‘It was tough, especially at the beginning. I had to relocate myself and the kids and live apart from my husband. They were all incredibly supportive and I couldn’t have done it without them. Today I love my job. ENs are professionals and this is a path we choose – we see it as a career rather than a job and we should be paid accordingly,’ Vicki said.

‘Manning Base Hospital management understands the crucial role we play in the hospital system and has been very supportive. We negotiated with them and managed to extend the Clinical Nurse Educator’s hours to 11pm, which was fantastic as we got a lot more assistance towards our competencies.

‘For a long time, the HDU wasn’t thought to be the place for ENs but attitudes are shifting. When my CNE introduced the Professional Portfolio program to Manning Base it really fast-tracked my professional development.

‘The upskilling of ENs in the HDU is now well supported by the RNs. Most of them see us as a crucial helping hand, and to us, they are an incredible source of knowledge and skill that we tap into constantly.’

Similarly, Vicki is passionate about passing her knowledge and wisdom along to the next generation of nurses. She participates in the Mentoring Program and sees it as a wonderful way to connect with nurses who are starting out.

‘I love showing younger ENs that they can go ahead and do these things too,’ she said.

Now Vicki’s kids have grown up she is keen to continue her career and hopes life will be easier for ENs who follow. It has been a long journey from that hospital visit a decade ago and, she suspects, one epiphany is enough for her family in this lifetime.

‘Whenever I say, “ooh, that job looks interesting” they all jump on me and yell nooooooo.’