NSWNMA to the rescue

Shari Bugden’s story: The accident that ripped a muscle in my shoulder would have also torn a hole in my finances had I not been a member of the NSWNMA.

In November 2014, I was travelling from my home to Bowral and District Hospital to begin a 12-hour night shift as a midwife when I had a car accident. I was taken to hospital with bad whiplash and a high-grade tear in my right shoulder.

It was four months before I could go back to work part-time on restricted duties.

Two years earlier, the NSW Liberal government had cut the heart out of the state’s workers’ compensation scheme. Among the changes was the abolition of cover for injuries suffered during journeys to and from work.

That would have left me without any income for many months, but I’ve been in the union since I started nursing and knew they had stepped in to cover travel to and from work – that was a big bonus.

I could not have coped with months of no money coming in because I’m married with five children. A big chunk of my pay goes to support my family and we couldn’t survive without it.

The hospital wasn’t sure of the steps to be followed but I contacted the NSWNMA and they helped me all the way through the whole process. They helped me lodge an insurance claim and I received the first payment about three weeks after the accident.

The Association has been absolutely marvellous. The union’s insurance cover has allowed me and my family to live the way we had done without falling to pieces. Someone from the union was always available to provide advice.

The union also helped me to get back to work on restricted duties and in conjunction with the doctor told me what I could and couldn’t do. Though I could no longer help women in labour without risking further injury, I was able to assist mothers during return visits to the hospital and handle paperwork and auditing.

Without journey insurance I would have been forced back to work earlier and probably full time to maintain my earnings. That probably would have been to the detriment of my body and I would have had to leave work completely.

I’ve had so much support from the union that I’ve become a delegate for the Bowral area. Now I get lots of support to deal with issues other than my own.

The whole of annual conference last year was exceptional and I’ve realised that the more nurses who get involved the better the team – and the more chance we’ve got of getting what we want.

My advice to nurses and midwives who are not members of the NSWNMA is that you don’t know when you’re going to have an accident and you’re silly if you don’t get yourself covered, so join the union.