More clarification needed before new rostering system finalised

cover Lamp April 2010

HNEAHS must clarify skill mix categories before NSWNA Branches vote on balanced rostering.

The NSWNA has concerns the skill mix categories in the new Hunter New England (HNE) rostering system guidelines do not ensure a safe skill mix on each shift. The skill mix categories need to be clarified by the HNEAHS before the new rostering system can be signed off by the NSWNA.

‘The HNEAHS has proposed three skill mix categories, which is inadequate to ensure a safe skill mix,’ said NSWNA General Secretary Brett Holmes.

‘With only three categories, category 3 would contain newly graduated RNs, EENs, ENs, trainee ENs and AiNs. This means an RN could be swapped for an AiN on a shift. The NSWNA has proposed an additional fourth category for AiNs to ensure there are enough skilled staff on each shift. We need to guarantee that the right staff are rostered on at the right time.

‘The skill mix categories are an integral component of the guidelines and the NSWNA cannot sign these off until members’ concerns are addressed by the HNEAHS,’ said Brett.

Once the NSWNA has clarification from the HNEAHS on the skill mix categories, members will have an opportunity to vote on the guidelines at Branch meetings.

Members have also reported that on a number of occasions the HNEAHS has misinformed staff regarding their roster preferences, indicating it is unlikely they will have any preferences approved. The roster guidelines clearly state that roster preferences are to be incorporated into the workable roster as much as possible.

‘Although members don’t expect to be granted all preferences, this is an important aspect to ensure work-life balance. The preference section was a key inclusion in the guidelines. The Association is working hard to ensure the introduction of “Balanced Rosters” is consistent with the guidelines,’ said Brett.

In developing the new system, a collaborative research project between HNEAHS and the NSWNA was undertaken to examine the impact of  a responsive rostering system on patient, nurse and operational needs. One of the research report’s key recommendations is to build in processes to rostering that allow employees to gain their shift preferences.

The new guidelines allow nurses to nominate their roster preferences to enable them to balance their family and other commitments. While nurses cannot be guaranteed their preferences, management must endeavour to meet these requests as far as possible under the new system.

‘There may be times when preferences clash and management is unable to give all nurses the roster preferences they have requested. If management is unable to meet a nurse’s roster preference, the NUM should sit down with the nurse and give an explanation and they should work together to resolve the matter,’ said Brett.

The guidelines also allow members to request long-term shift preferences such as permanent night shift. ‘If a nurse wants to work permanent night shift and this fits in with the preferences of other nurses and the unit, there should be no reason why this preference would not be granted,’ said Brett.

The NSWNA will continue to consult with members in finalising the new rostering system guidelines. It’s important that members attend Branch meetings to have their say and be kept up to date on the process.

Members will be given regular updates via a special HNEAHS balanced roster newsletter, distributed directly via email to public sector members in the HNEAHS and available on the NSWNA website (www.nswnurses.asn.au).