Nurses and midwives remain determined to speak out

A resolute crowd of nurses and midwives from the health and aged care sectors have gathered to share their experiences and support each other to speak up on the widespread issues hampering their professions.

During day one of the 77th Annual Conference of the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA) in Sydney and online, participants reflected on workplace struggles and the ongoing pandemic.

Nursing leaders and academics from Scotland, Canada, the United States and Australia shared their insights into the supply demands on nurses and midwives, and a lack of preparedness to ensure health systems are adequately resourced.

Professor James Buchan from the University of Edinburgh explored research showcasing the global need for a better nursing and midwifery future.

“One of the underlying major concerns is that many systems are putting a lot of emphasis on individual nurse resilience to somehow continue to get through this and the reality is the emphasis should not be on the nurse to be resilient, it should be on the system to support the nurse,” said Professor Buchan.

President of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions, Linda Silas, shared the common struggles to secure safe staffing and nurse-to-patient ratios.

“One in two nurses is saying ‘Bye bye, I’m looking for the exit sign, I want to leave.’ And we know that one in five healthcare workers, so that’s the whole healthcare workforce are looking to retire early and we need to change that very quickly,” said Ms Silas.

Bonnie Castillo, Executive Director of National Nurses United in the United States highlighted the enormous drain on clinical practitioners because of cracks exposed in the health system.

“Healthcare workers are done. They are done being applauded as essential while being treated as expendable,” Ms Castillo said.

Assistant General Secretary of the NSWNMA, Shaye Candish, spoke about the undervaluing of input from highly skilled professionals when health policies are developed and decided.

“The overwhelming pressures on nurses and midwives has never been more unrelenting. The uphill battle to have our voices heard remains, as does the need for your clinical insights and experiences to be afforded a seat at the decision making or policy drafting table,” said Ms Candish.

While Professor Joseph Ibrahim from Monash University summarised the extraordinary plight of nurses in Australia’s aged care sector and the lack of input sought from clinical professionals.

Professor Ibrahim reflected, “There were no nurses involved in the pandemic planning for aged care. There were no nurses actually working in aged care that are represented on any of those groups that were making the decisions.”

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