Byron Bay nurses fed up with paperwork

Community backs nurses’ call for ward clerk

The NSW Nurses’ Association is preparing to go to the Industrial Relations Commission to try to get more clerical support for nurses at Byron Bay Hospital.

North Coast Area Health Service management has refused to provide the hospital with a full-time ward clerk.

This is despite the nurses’ request being endorsed by the hospital’s Reasonable Workload Committee and network general manager.

Management instead offered to increase ward clerk hours by seven hours to 17 hours per week, with the cost recouped by converting some RN hours to EEN hours. The union branch at the hospital says this is still inadequate and is determined to pursue their claim for a full-time ward clerk.

Nurses say the quality of patient care is being undermined by the amount of ‘paperwork’ they have to complete.

The local community seems to agree, with at least 400 residents signing a petition in support of a full-time ward clerk in a very short space of time. Two residents volunteered their time to collect signatures outside Woolworths.

NSW Nurses’ Association delegate at the hospital Liz McCall, who is also the nursing unit manager, said staff are being pushed to the limit every day of the week.

‘At least a third of my day is spent on clerical duties, making appointments, booking scans, faxing and photocopying, typing up minutes and filing – things that should be done by a clerk,’ Liz said.

‘This situation has been exacerbated by the growing demands on NUMs and nurse managers to take over the finance, HR and recruitment roles for which there was previously clerical support, now removed.

‘Also nurse managers are increasingly required to manage many complex databases that impinge greatly on their time, and which again, have no clerical support attached.

‘All this takes me away from being a mentor to my staff, supervising junior staff and from being a nurse – helping other nurses and talking to patients.

‘I get frustrated because I’m not doing what I’m trained to do as an experienced nurse and midwife.’

NSWNA Assistant General Secretary Judith Kiejda said getting a full-time ward clerk was a very important issue for the nurses.

‘Nurses are there to nurse patients but they cannot do that if they have to attend to all the administrative duties and paperwork associated with running a ward,’ Judith said.

‘They obviously have to do some paperwork, but they believe things have got out of hand at Byron Bay. It’s a tragic waste of nursing skills.’