industry & reform
Australian College of Nursing CEO Kylie Ward . Photo : Supplied
‘ A long way to go ’
The fight to achieve gender equity and end violence in nursing .
Kylie Ward interviewed by Eleanor Campbell
This years ’ International Women ’ s Day enabled us to honour the achievements and contributions of women in health who have kept communities safe during the pandemic .
And yet nursing , the most female dominated profession in the world , continues to grapple with record rates of occupational violence , gender based discrimination and harassment .
“ Nurses are still fighting for equity in pay , we ’ ve got gender-based discrimination , we ’ ve got gender-based violence , so there ’ s still a lot more to do ,” said Australian College of Nursing chief executive , Adjunct Professor Kylie Ward , who began her own career in nursing at Sydney ’ s Westmead hospital 30 years ago .
Ward spoke with Nursing Review to celebrate female nurses and reflect on the battle for gender equality in healthcare .
NR : What progress do you think we have made to achieve gender equality in nursing in the past 30 years ? KW : I wish I could say that I ’ ve seen huge advancements , but unfortunately we still have such a long way to go . Nurses are still fighting for equity in pay . We ’ ve got
14 | nursingreview . com . au gender-based discrimination , we ’ ve got gender-based violence : so there ’ s still a lot more to do .
I ’ m in a female-dominated profession , so I ’ ve had a lot of advantages throughout my career . But I ’ ve also seen many disadvantages , not only in nursing and health , but in other disciplines and career pathways .
What stories have you heard from your members about their experiences with workplace violence , harassment or discrimination ? Women have really led the war – and I do call it a war against the virus . We couldn ’ t see our enemy , but it certainly paralysed every society in the world and changed the way that we ’ ve lived and worked and even behaved .
Unfortunately , we ’ ve seen a deterioration in behaviour . Nurses already experience more occupational violence than prison guards and police officers . I think as a society that really stems from domestic and family violence and the way that women are portrayed . With nursing being about 90 per cent female dominated , that then flows over .
What I ’ ve been really alarmed about in the last couple of years is the frequency of incidents . We do understand the stress and the frustration that people go through , but there is that underpinning tolerance in society of abuse to women , and nurses then feel the brunt of that .
“ Nursing represents the best of humanity .
Last year the ACN established a taskforce to combat workplace violence . Can you tell us about that ? This was very important to me . I ’ m proud to chair the task force and I ’ m humbled by all the members who have continued to volunteer their expertise to it , considering the nature of what we ’ re going through .
There ’ s four committees . One of them is occupational violence , and the second is nurses caring for people who experience domestic and family violence . As the most trusted profession , I want every nurse and undergraduate nurse in the country to be trained to know what to look for , how to have the conversation , and to maintain the integrity of that therapeutic relationship and the safety of people and how they confide in us .
The third committee is nurses who experience family and domestic violence themselves . We ’ ve known through the years that nurses have experienced partner violence and unfortunately have died . That committee is very important in how we support each other as a profession , and obviously anyone in our industry .
It may well be at work that a nurse might need their own support systems in