Developments are taking place in relation to uniforms and surgical smoke.


In October last year a comprehensive review by the Association of the current NSW public sector nurses’ uniform revealed what anecdotal evidence had long suggested: few nurses are satisfied with their uniform, and many are very dissatisfied.

Common complaints were in regards to the ordering and supply, quality and appearance and health and safety issues.

A vibrant and ongoing comment thread on Nurse Uncut continues to reveal that NSW nurses have had extremely negative and frustrating experiences with their uniforms.

Although the current contract runs until September 2011, negotiations for the next contract are already underway. The Health Department recently held a workshop, which several delegates from the NSWNA attended, and the Union is meeting with the Department each month to discuss uniform matters. The Department has also promised to invite representatives of the Association onto an advisory committee for the technical side of the contract.

The Health Department has proposed a scrubs-style uniform, with three different styles of tunic top and five styles of trousers similar to the scrubs uniform worn by ED nurses.

NSWNA Assistant General Secretary Judith Kiejda said the biggest battle was likely to be around how many uniforms nurses get and the fabric.

‘We are asking for cotton or a high proportion of cotton. The Health Department has given us an undertaking that all companies involved, including fabric manufacturers, manufacturers of garments and suppliers and so on, will all have to be quality-accredited companies. The Department has also said it is hiring a consultant to look at fabrics, so we are hoping something useful comes of that,’ said Judith.

‘We’re not going to please everyone because some nurses want a scrubs-style uniform and others don’t, but at least it’s going to be a lot more practical and comfortable than the current one.’

The NSWNA hopes that since negotiations are already underway, there will be time to roll out the new garments by the end of next year.

Regular updates will appear in The Lamp and on the NSWNA website.

Surgical Smoke

Last year a group of nurses put forward a resolution at the NSWNA Annual Conference, calling for action to prevent nurses being exposed to surgical smoke  in operating theatres.

Surgical smoke rising from tissue being burnt, as in laser surgery or diathermy, carries potential health risks. The smoke can carry toxic compounds and infectious agents. Modern equipment has scavenging devices attached to prevent the smoke from being inhaled by staff, but older equipment does not have these devices.

The NSWNA began investigations into the situation and has been gathering information to present to the Health Department. The Department is now conducting research and a survey of area health services in regards to surgical smoke and where scavenging devices have been fitted.

Once this information is collated, the Department will issue a short policy about the installation of smoke scavenging devices including timeframes for their implementation and informing area health services that they must put in place interim risk control measures.

‘It is good that the Health Department seems to be supportive in this matter,’ said NSWNA Assistant General Secretary Judith Kiejda. ‘Surgical smoke is dangerous to nurses’ health and the only thing they can do at the moment to protect themselves is to wear respiratory protection. The Union will continue to press the Department to ensure that requirements are put in place to ensure nurses’ health and safety at work.’