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Thread: Nursing shortage in Canterbury

  1. #1
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    Default Nursing shortage in Canterbury

    Canterbury short of 200 nurses
    By KIM THOMAS - The Press | Tuesday, 02 September 2008

    Canterbury needs more than 200 nurses as serious shortages push staff to near breaking point.

    The unprecedented number of nursing vacancies is driving Canterbury hospitals into gridlock and forcing them to shut beds and postpone surgery.

    The number of nursing vacancies has skyrocketed over the last two years, jumping from 80 in July 2006 to 136 in July last year.

    Christchurch Hospital general manager Mark Leggett said the current 211 nursing vacancies were among the highest experienced.

    Hospital managers were frequently unable to fill shifts from existing staff or nursing bureaus which meant closing beds, and contributing to gridlock, he said.

    Managers also were concerned staff nurses were doing many extra shifts and more overtime, Leggett said.

    "Their willingness to go this extra mile is hugely appreciated, but clearly is unsustainable," he said.

    On 10 occasions in the last two months, operations were rescheduled because of a lack of nurses, Leggett said.

    In April, when there were 182 vacancies, Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) nursing director Mary Gordon warned elective surgery might have to be cut if the situation worsened.

    New Zealand Nurses Organisation public sector industrial adviser Glenda Alexander said many nurses were near breaking point due to the pressure of working in understaffed hospitals.

    As a result, safe staffing had become a priority for the union this year, Alexander said.

    A lack of flexibility in rosters pushed many senior nurses with children to quit, cut their hours or become bureau nurses to work more family-friendly shifts, she said.

    "Every winter the problem is exacerbated. The already stretched nursing complement is reduced by illness, and the numbers of patients increase," Alexander said.

    "Nurses cope. They work and work and never let the patients suffer, but they eventually get to the stage where they have had enough and leave."

    Health boards needed to allow greater flexibility or risk losing more staff through fatigue and despondency, she said.

    Leggett said the CDHB was reviewing the use of healthcare assistants and enrolled nurses as a possible way to ease the burden on registered nurses.

    Christchurch Hospital's new nursing director, Dr Jacky Flynn, said the CDHB had set up a specialist recruitment division that would focus on filling nursing vacancies.

    It was also supporting nurses who had been out of the workforce for several years to retrain and paying for new overseas graduates to do their initial year of work at Canterbury hospitals, she said.

    In Australia, nursing shortages were being addressed by extending the jobs enrolled nurses could do, Flynn said.

    The Nursing Executive, a group of New Zealand's hospital nursing directors, supported the concept and had lobbied the Health Minister over the move, Flynn said.

    Health Minister David Cunliffe said after discussions with senior nurses, he commissioned a briefing paper on the role of enrolled nurses.

    Ministry of Health chief nurse Mark Jones said at the end of the month it would present the minister with a paper recommending the role and use of enrolled nurses be extended.

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    Nursing shortages boil down to one thing - money! Young women - and men - today have so many more career choices and can make much better money with better hours than they can in nursing. It does take special, dedicated people to be nurses, but I really don't see any incentives being put out there to attract people into the profession. (Whether it's New Zealand or the United States.)

    And, I have to say, I don't think the NZ Council of Nursing is doing a good job of getting willing nurses, such as myself, into the system! (My partner mailed all my information from Auckland in April, as I was hoping to have the registration done before I got here. He did not mail the $485 fee with it.) Multiple emails back and forth with the council proved fruitless - they claimed they never received the paperwork! It was never returned to my partner, not at the post office. I assumed it was all lost.

    Until the last week of July, when the NZ Council of Nursing returned all the paperwork to me in the US. In the meantime, I had to go through the process of replacing everything. I had made copies of everything I sent, but they want originals, which mean a lot of work for me, and imposing -again - on an assistant dean where I went to school, to recreate some documents. (Lucky I had the copies to make that easier.)

    Instead of raising the fees, they should lower them, or have hospitals looking for nurses, be willing to absorb the fees for registration and certification to get nurses to work for so many months, minimum. Gee, the nursing school I went to years ago offered a free education if a nurse agreed to work for the hospital for two years. (So, you got an education and a guaranteed job at the end!) Even at that, there was no way a person could be held to that two year committment, if, say, they were married and husband got a job elsewhere that required a move.

    I really get tired of seeing these articles that talk about how to cope with the nursing shortage by shuffling tasks that nurses do onto lesser skilled people, instead of trying to get more people into the profession. That's a band aid solution for a big problem and will not change a problem that is getting worse all the time. It just slowly makes being a sick person in the hospital more and more dangerous as people are assigned tasks to do, and they can do the task, but they don't have the knowledge about what they are doing and why to make it really safe for a patient.
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    Quote Originally Posted by 1happywoman View Post
    Nursing shortages boil down to one thing - money! Young women - and men - today have so many more career choices and can make much better money with better hours than they can in nursing. It does take special, dedicated people to be nurses, but I really don't see any incentives being put out there to attract people into the profession. (Whether it's New Zealand or the United States.)

    And, I have to say, I don't think the NZ Council of Nursing is doing a good job of getting willing nurses, such as myself, into the system! (My partner mailed all my information from Auckland in April, as I was hoping to have the registration done before I got here. He did not mail the $485 fee with it.) Multiple emails back and forth with the council proved fruitless - they claimed they never received the paperwork! It was never returned to my partner, not at the post office. I assumed it was all lost.

    Until the last week of July, when the NZ Council of Nursing returned all the paperwork to me in the US. In the meantime, I had to go through the process of replacing everything. I had made copies of everything I sent, but they want originals, which mean a lot of work for me, and imposing -again - on an assistant dean where I went to school, to recreate some documents. (Lucky I had the copies to make that easier.)

    Instead of raising the fees, they should lower them, or have hospitals looking for nurses, be willing to absorb the fees for registration and certification to get nurses to work for so many months, minimum. Gee, the nursing school I went to years ago offered a free education if a nurse agreed to work for the hospital for two years. (So, you got an education and a guaranteed job at the end!) Even at that, there was no way a person could be held to that two year committment, if, say, they were married and husband got a job elsewhere that required a move.

    I really get tired of seeing these articles that talk about how to cope with the nursing shortage by shuffling tasks that nurses do onto lesser skilled people, instead of trying to get more people into the profession. That's a band aid solution for a big problem and will not change a problem that is getting worse all the time. It just slowly makes being a sick person in the hospital more and more dangerous as people are assigned tasks to do, and they can do the task, but they don't have the knowledge about what they are doing and why to make it really safe for a patient.
    I agree with 1hw - it is the same in the UK. Nursing shortages were being filled by unskilled & unqualified staff which put patients at risk. The problem we are seeing in the UK now is not the problem of no nurses - more the opposite. Loads of nurses but reduced budgets to pay for them. It results in the same problems.

    I know I am leaving the UK to work in NZ - it is a bit like 'out of the frying pan, into the fire' but at least there will be better scenery and less people!!
    Nursing Registration sent 5th August 2007
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