Ratios a boost for NUMs

The NSWNMA’s award claims aim to give NUMs in the public health system more control over unit staffing.

The NSWNMA claim for improved ratios would help nurse unit managers to staff their units with the nursing numbers and skills they need, says Nepean Hospital NUM Kerry Rodgers.

Kerry, who is NUM of the Operating Suite (Clinical) and a NSWNMA councillor, says if successful, the union claim would give NUMs “more autonomy and greater capacity to staff units the way they should be staffed, with the right skill mix depending on patients’ acuity.”

She says recent Industrial Commission cases brought by the NSWNMA have revealed how upper management in some local health districts have manipulated the existing nursing hours per patient day (NHPPD) system.

“The current Award says NHPPD should be considered as the minimum standard but NUMs find it difficult to make that argument.

“At a lot of hospitals, including Nepean, NUMs have been hamstrung in their efforts to advocate for their wards and obtain the correct NHPPD, including like for like replacement of absent staff.

“For some senior management, as long as you’ve got a beating heart you are an adequate replacement for any staff member regardless of your qualifications and skills.

“Wards have also been short-changed via the use of shorter shifts for replacement staff and the direction to manage ‘specialling’ patients within staffing numbers.

“The 2018 award claim will strengthen the capacity of NUMs to say they need extra appropriately qualified staff due to the high acuity of their patients.”

Equal ratios for all NSW hospitals

The union’s award claim includes equal ratios for all adult medical/surgical wards in all NSW hospitals.  

“It is unfair that a ward in a country hospital has to work with fewer NHPPD than a ward caring for the same type of patients in a tertiary hospital,” Kerry says.

“People should receive the same level of nursing care regardless of which hospital they attend.”

The current award says operating theatres should be staffed according to ‘ACORN’ 2008 standards and the NSWNMA 2018 claim seeks to have staffing levels continually updated in line with the release of ACORN standards.

Kerry says applying current ACORN standards would boost staffing of indirect roles such as NUMs and clinical nurse educators.

It would also help non-theatre procedural areas undertaking procedures requiring sedation such as endoscopy units and imaging departments, to gain safe staffing levels.