Staff freeze hits new graduates

Education of young nurses and other health professionals is being restricted by the failure to fill nursing vacancies at Auburn Hospital, a rally of more than 50 nurses and supporters was told.

Debra Smith, Secretary of the NSWNA Branch at Auburn Hospital, said the main impact of nurse shortages was heavier workloads and a consequent risk to patient safety.

‘There are vacancies across the hospital that we are not allowed to recruit to. It means that every day we walk onto the ward we are starting on the back foot,’ said Debra, the pre-admission clinic Nurse Unit Manager.

Debra said that as of 16 March there were 4.36 vacancies in the Emergency Department, which was about to lose even more staff to maternity leave.

‘The operating suite has a long-standing vacancy for a Clinical Nurse Educator (CNE) and two scrub nurses had taken voluntary redundancy,’ she said.

‘On top of that, the suite is short 2.28 FTEs due to maternity leave and workers’ compensation. The maternity department is short-staffed and has a vacancy for a CNE as well.

‘Because there is no Nurse Educator, there is not enough staff and time to adequately educate inexperienced new nurses and medical students on the wards.’

Debra said that despite heavy workloads, the hospital was not even allowed to re-employ its new graduate nurses and midwives and trainee-enrolled nurses who trained at the hospital last year.

‘Our staff put a lot into these young nurses’ education over the past 12 months yet some are still unemployed and others have gone to Area Health Services that are hiring staff.’

Branch President Dianne Maclean also addressed the rally, which was supported by members of the Health Services’ Union and doctors and allied staff such as physiotherapists and pharmacists.

Other supporters included local fire fighters, who attended with their truck, and ambulance workers. The NSW Police Association sent a message of support.