A lack of funding and staff in country and regional communities means an increase in nursing workloads, with the result that patients suffer unnecessarily. Katrina Lee, CNS at Orange Base Hospital, tells The Lamp why every patient, in every region and community in New South Wales, deserves the right to safe care.Katrina has worked in Orange or its surrounds for more than 18 years and loves the community mindedness of working in a rural hospital.
“I certainly feel rural facilities have extraordinarily dedicated nursing staff. We tend to be very aware of our community and most people that come through the door as patients we would know of them, or of where they live, so there is a real connection.
Katrina says working as a nurse in a country environment has its particular challenges, which foster corresponding skill sets.
“Nursing staff in country hospitals have more resilience in their everyday practice. We are often stretched to the limit.
“We’re at a disadvantage to some of our metro hospitals, where you have a large pool of nursing staff available that could work. We have a static number to draw on in our area.
“The bigger facilities do have support services, but certainly in my first job, in a smaller facility – with about 16 beds – you did everything.
“You were in charge of the hospital and after hours you were the cook and the cleaner and everything if you had late admissions and all staff had gone home and there was just you and an EN. And that’s kind of nice. You are community-minded.”
Katrina acknowledges that the New South Wales government has held up its commitment to deliver 1400 more nurses to the health system, but says this is no longer enough.
“Wards have converted to what the government has promised – although it is quite tenuous at times. We often have a lot of sick leave that isn’t catered for. We don’t have agency staff to call on. If nursing staff are off sick you have to increase your workload to cover the shortfalls.
“We have lots of ‘surge activity’ with more patients coming through and so our normal allocated bed numbers can fluctuate quite rapidly,” she says.
“At the moment there are specialty areas that don’t get adequate ratios. We desperately need better ratios across every shift not just the morning shift or the afternoon shift. It’s got to be across the board.
“The workload of my facility, it doesn’t change no matter what shift you are on. There’s no one shift that is quieter or less busy. The patients need that higher level of nursing input. So we are desperate to get better ratios.”
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