Time poor and barely coping

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WatchNew research conducted among community nurses by the NSWNMA suggests community health services are struggling to cope, and government strategies to deliver savings in public hospitals will exacerbate the problem.

The population of New South Wales is predicted to grow by 25% by 2031. With an ageing population and government health strategies trending to an earlier discharge from public hospitals, the state’s demand for community nursing, particularly in primary health and chronic care is expected to skyrocket.

Research conducted by the NSWNMA suggests the current community health practice environment is ill equipped to cope.

In a substantive survey of almost 400 community health nurses, 70% of respondents disagreed with the statement “the service would be able to cope with an increase in clients without additional staff”.

For many, patient care is already going backwards with current resources.

Thirty-six percent of survey respondents thought the quality of care had deteriorated, while 50% said there was no improvement.

The study reveals that community nurses and midwives are carrying large caseloads, with negative consequences for patient care.

Over half of respondents thought that increasing requirements of administration and documentation constrained the time available for client care. Travel time was seen as an additional pressure.

Factors such as travel time, administration demands and lack of replacement staff, produce an environment where the care needs of an appropriate number of patients cannot be met.

In order to cope with workload demands community nurses and midwives are working unpaid overtime, suggesting a system that is under stress.

“The biggest issue is relief for annual leave, sick leave or long service leave and recruitment and retention of nursing staff to the country,” said one rural general community health nurse.