Maintaining our professional respect

The 6th annual NSWNA Professional Issues Conference took place at a time of great flux and uncertainty for the profession.

Federal IR changes undermine our professional status
The 6th annual NSWNA professional conference kicked off with General Secretary Brett Holmes posing the big question: how can nurses maintain their professional status if their rights at work are under attack?

‘Under the federal IR system an action such as that at the Royal North Shore Hospital – a dispute, not about pay and conditions, but about protecting nurses’ professional status – would not have been allowed,’ he said.

Brett highlighted the specific, and lesser known, aspects of the laws that target emergency workers.

‘If you take an action where services are diminished, a third party can make an application that says we can’t take an action. This puts a straitjacket on nurses as all our actions can be interpreted as putting someone in danger.’

Brett said action and people power are needed to turn it around.

‘Wear your orange armband – stand up and talk about it. Every politician needs to know we don’t support laws that strip away our rights and harm our security.’

Nurses pay their respects to a pioneer
‘I’m proud to be the Senior Australian of the Year but stunned to be called senior,’ Sally Goold told the conference. ‘I felt deeply honoured and humbled.’

Sally treated the conference to an insightful and inspiring recollection of her journey as a pioneer Aboriginal nurse.

‘Whenever I was sick as a child I always thought nurses were wonderful. For as long as I could remember I said I wanted to be a nurse,’ she said.

‘At 16 I applied to do my training. People said I wouldn’t get in because I was black. I wrote to RPAH and was accepted. I had no idea there were other women in other states at that time who were denied training because they were black.’

Sally said among her proudest achievements was the formation of CATSIN with the support of the ANF and the NSWNA.

Never lose sight of your goal, says Kylie
There isn’t a rule book for good managers, according to Kylie Stark. Kylie says she was thrust into her managerial role without experience or training and to some extent this was an advantage.

‘Loyalty is the vital virtue in your staff but you can’t buy it, you have to earn it,’ she said.

‘Everyone is accountable, all of the time. If you ask people to be accountable, they take ownership of their role.’

Developing and communicating strong beliefs, having vision, being strategic and delegating the finer details were crucial characteristics of the good manager, she said.

Want to manage sleepiness on shift work? Take a nap

Carers tend to be sleepier and more stressed, posing the risk of increased medication errors and near errors, says sleep expert Delwyn Bartlett.

‘Even on night shift, most people stay on their “day pattern”. They are more alert during the day and want to sleep at night. Taking naps and rest breaks is a useful way of managing this sleepiness and shift work,’ she said.

Delwyn says that before going to bed you need to allow wind-down time but should avoid mentally demanding work or over-stimulating TV. You should also keep away from exciting books and surfing the net, playing computer games and exer-cising as they all lead to over arousal.

Delwyn’s sleep tips

Managing the early shift:

  • do not wear sunglasses in the morning
  • avoid afternoon light
  • keep household lighting to a low level at night
  • have time out when you come home
  • try not to have too big a difference in getting up time on your days off.

Managing the afternoon shift:

  • avoid morning light
  • afternoon light will keep you more alert on your afternoon shift
  • after work give yourself time to slow down and have time out before trying to sleep.