‘I refuse to be a figurehead’

Jane Etchells, former Divisional Nurse Manager at Royal North Shore Hospital, opted to take up a voluntary redundancy rather then accept a downgraded nursing role with no operational control.

Jane was one of 10 senior nurse managers whose position would be deleted in the proposed NSCCAHS restructure plan and replaced by a generic manager, who was not necessarily a nurse.

‘There was no way I was going to be a figurehead with no operational authority. All nurses down the line would have been affected by this decision.

‘I was managing 50 nursing positions and providing operational and clinical leadership and support to the nurses. A generic manager doesn’t understand nurses’ roles and the operational needs of the facility and would not be providing the necessary clinical leadership,’ said Jane.

‘It is very important to the nursing professional and to patient outcomes that we have nurse representation and influence at the executive level in the AHS structure.

‘You just have to look at the UK and NZ experiences where health service management tried to replace nurse managers with generic managers. Studies of these experiences reveal that patient outcomes were reduced as a result.

‘Nurses at the bedside are also feeling that if a senior nurse manager can be sidelined in this way, what’s going to happen to them,’ she said.

‘The RNSH branch has put forward a very strong case to the AHS to put the Divisional Nurse Manager positions back in the NSCCAHS structure.’

Jane received a letter on 29 June 2006 advising that three Divisional Nurse Manager positions at RNSH – including her position – were going to be deleted.

‘Later that day I received a phone call saying we were being offered a voluntary redundancy. The offer was valid until the end of the financial year – that was the next day!’ said Jane.