Workloads committees easing the load

Nurses are using reasonable workloads committees to ease workloads in public hospitals.

Workloads relief at Singleton Hospital

Nurses at Singleton Hospital are geared up to address workload issues since receiving training on how to use their reasonable workloads committee.

Nurse-workloads at Singleton Hospital have been relieved by measures implemented by the Reasonable Workloads Committee (RWC), which was established at the hospital last September.

According to NSWNA delegate and staff representative on the RWC, Kim Edwards, workloads in the casualty ward have been eased when the RWC agreed to increase after-hours clerical support in the ward.

‘Since receiving workplace training on establishing a reasonable workloads committee, nurses are a lot more aware of how to use the committee to address workload problems,’ said Kim.

Between January and April this  year, representatives of the NSWNA and NSW Health visited nurses in public hospitals across NSW to promote their right to a reasonable workload. Nurses received training on how to use a reasonable work-loads committee to address workload issues.

The training reiterated to nurses their right by law to a reasonable workload under the Reasonable Workloads Clause (Clause 48) in the Public Hospital Nurses’ Award. The Award allows for the establishment of RWCs to calculate and manage nurse workloads in the public sector, and the implementation of a generalist reason-able workloads tool to calculate workloads.

‘When nurses raise an issue with me I suggest they write to the committee stating their workload concerns and any possible solutions to the problems. Nurses working in the wards understand what their problems are and how these can be best addressed. They are best placed to pose a solution.

‘I am an EN working in theatre so I am not always on top of what is happening in the wards.

‘The RWC has provided a formal structure for nurses to raise workloads issues. It’s a step in overcoming a culture of just keeping quiet and not complaining about heavy workloads and other problems. Some of the nurses at Singleton Hospital have been here for 20 years and it’s a whole new concept for them that they have a right to a raise workload problems.

‘The RWC has empowered nurses here and given them a voice. There’s a sense that we are all working together to find solutions to workloads problems,’ said Kim.

‘We’re small but we have a right to a reasonable workload’

Nurses and management at Merriwa Hospital applied the reasonable workloads principles of the award to address concerns about nurse and patient safety due to excessive workloads.

DoN Michelle Turnbull explained: ‘We’re a small hospital, 13-bed hospital. When a complex care patient presented for admission, we had to determine whether we had adequate staffing to cope.
We utilised the reasonable workloads principles and were able to ascertain that we could not accept this patient without putting nurse and patient safety at risk.’

Staffing on a shift at Merriwa Hospital comprises one RN and one EN.

Michelle Turnbull is a member of a newly formed Reasonable Workloads Committee (RWC), established after workplace training by NSWNA. Because of its small size, Merriwa grouped with a number of smaller hospitals in the Hunter region to form an RWC.

The RWC for Merriwa, Murrurundi and Denman Hospital was about to hold its first meeting as The Lamp went to print. ‘Recruitment and retention of nurses is a major theme for us all and we’ll be discussing this at the first meeting,’ said Michelle.