Safer work, safer care

October has been nominated as Australian Safework Month.

In this month’s Lamp, as in many previous ones, we highlight the tremendous work and the resolute action taken by many nurses and midwives throughout the state to make their health environments safer for their patients.

At Blacktown and Concord, Gosford and Wilcannia and in many other hospitals and health services throughout the state our members have taken strong action to ensure that adequate resources are being deployed to provide safe and high quality care.

Having the right number of qualified staff remains the bane of our public health system. It is an issue the state government has very publicly promised to address with an increase in nursing and midwifery staff.

These extra staff are needed now and our members should be commended for their actions which keep local managements honest and have led to the recruitment of extra nurses and midwives.

The safety of patients, which is 
the driving force of these actions, is paramount but so too is the safety of staff.

Australian Safework Month provides us with a focal point to highlight the issues which impact on workplace safety in healthcare.

SafeWork Australia has published a safety plan for the healthcare sector which provides a refreshingly broad analysis of the issues that contribute to the risk of injuries and illness and that undermine the safety of healthcare environments.

It recognises muscular stress, falls, harassment and bullying and work pressure as the top causes of injury among healthcare workers.

Commendably, it acknowledges the importance of psychosocial risk factors such as high job demands, low job control, poor support, poor environmental conditions and violent or traumatic events.

It nominates work-related violence as a key priority area for improving workplace health and safety.

Staffing is at the heart of safety

These are themes which nurses and midwives are intimately aware of. They are recurring themes which, unfortunately but by necessity, often dominate the pages of The Lamp.

The causes and context of these issues is obviously complex. But in the health setting the common denominator is inevitably safe staffing. Unsafe staffing leads to safety risks for both staff and patients.

Psychosocial hazards – or the risk of work-related stress which arises from the design or management of work – is obviously exacerbated by understaffing. Likewise, understaffing is a risk factor for work-related violence.

Australian Worksafe Month is an opportunity for nurses and midwives to highlight the safety issues that blight our professions and to put forward our solutions to improve safety in healthcare.

On October 30 there will be a day of action which I would urge all members to participate in.

There are numerous ways you will be able to show your support: you can wear a badge or armband, hold or attend a branch meeting, organize a lunchtime rally, take a selfie and post it on social media using hastag #keepmesafe or email it here to us at the Association.

There is a dedicated area on the NSWNMA website where you will find resources to help you organise 
for the day as well as updates on activities.

NSWNMA members have always been brave, determined and effective in standing up for these safety issues, in the interests of our patients and our colleagues.

Every month we report on individual branches fighting resolutely for safer staffing, for 
safe patient care and against workplace violence.

This month let’s take this stand together and educate the community about the safety issues in healthcare and present the public with our remedies to make things better.