industry & reform
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The ACN is bipartisan , so we certainly don ’ t take a political side , and we ’ re not industrial . We ’ re the professional body , so from my perspective I think that there ’ s certainly been a lot of acknowledgement and recognition from leaders about the importance of the profession .
When I hosted the national summit on the nursing workforce last year , the minister turned up to listen without hesitation . Some of the issues are at a jurisdictional level though and what I ’ m seeing , which really does go to our federated country , is different jurisdictions are treating nurses differently .
I was shocked last year when nurses in New South Wales didn ’ t get a pay rise , even a basic CPI . What we need is sustainable , systemic increases in pay that match the professional qualifications , the education , and are on parity with other professions .
I think that there ’ s certainly been a lot of verbal recognition . But because of the working conditions and the challenges , I think there was a point in time when that wasn ’ t being received as maybe people had intended . We were really looking for some more substantial ways of showing our value . Not just a verbal thank you or recognition . And we ’ re yet to see that .
Have you recently encountered any memorable experiences or outstanding services from nurses ? Oh my gosh , every day . I love my job . I ’ m very proud to be a nurse and I receive hundreds of messages every week from nurses . Some are struggling , some are telling me of the terrible conditions that they ’ re working in , and the challenges with the increase in occupational violence , and that verbal and physical abuse , even from loved ones , more than they ’ d ever seen before . But certainly then there ’ s always people who really talk about the unique ways that they know that they ’ re making a difference .
We ’ re highly educated , highly trained , and the way that the nursing profession and our philosophy deliver that is in the strength in our behavioural sciences , in our emotional intelligence ; in bringing the academic intelligence but being able to deliver that in a way that very much relates to the populations that we care for .
That time that the nursing profession gets to spend with the patients , the consumers , the residents , the clients that they ’ re seeing and their loved ones , and making those
22 | nursingreview . com . au memories all throughout their experience , to the point where they support them in a dignified death , is really what fills my heart . It reminds me of why we do it .
A few years ago we introduced with the federal health minister the Nursing Trailblazer Awards . And this is the first time in Australia ’ s history a federal health minister had created an award category . There are many excellence awards , and Nurse of the Year awards , so it was different to that . It was really about a trailblazer , somebody who ’ s doing something that is nursing-led , that is making a phenomenal difference , and a major contribution that ’ s evidence based . It ’ s demonstrating innovation , and that could be rolled out across the nation .
Nikki Johnston won the first award for her work in the interface of palliative care and aged care , and had been able to demonstrate multiple millions of dollars of saving . Professor Sandy Middleton was a finalist . Her work on stroke intervention , early intervention , and the difference that can make for patients is internationally renowned , and should be showcased .
Our 2021 winner , Sonia Martin , is the cofounder of Sunny Street . The work that she ’ s been doing is just tremendous in nursing-led models of intervention to support homeless and vulnerable communities out in the streets . We know we have demand of who gets seen in facilities or in the institutions , for want of a better word . But who are we missing ?
She ’ s gone from a NUM , having great ideas , and then bravely set off with a colleague , a doctor , to establish Sunny Street . And they ’ ve delivered thousands of vaccinations in the streets , in care , to people in Queensland , and that should be a national organisation now .
I am fortunate in that I do see all of the wonderful stories and get to meet the incredible people who are leading excellent and innovative care in this nation .
What do you hope for the future of nurses working in Australia ? There ’ s a couple of different levels in my hopes . Sadly , I have to say that I hope no nurse should experience violence in their personal or professional lives . Isn ’ t that a terrible hope ? We should be able to live in a beautiful country like this , in a first world country , where we are safe . But that definitely is a hope , and I ’ d like to see that in my time so that the nurses , the women , children , the people in queer relationships , anyone that ’ s experiencing any kind of violence can live a life free of that .
“ I think that we ’ ve stretched ourselves too far , and the system is stretching us .
I certainly want to continue to see the profession supported , educated , and a sustainable workforce created where we have enough resources so that people have time to reflect , to think . Nurses are so committed to professional development , but I think that we ’ ve stretched ourselves too far , and the system is stretching us , and the elastic is probably in some instances about to break to be honest .
I think the investment in leadership is going to be paramount , because the leaders of organisations , including our nursing leaders , must not only have clinical or management qualifications , but need to understand how to lead people , how to champion people , and advocate for people .
That ’ s why we did the Nurse Executive Capability Framework years ago , because otherwise what I ’ m seeing is nurse executives are getting in positions where they don ’ t have the budget . They ’ re influential , they ’ re figureheads , but they ’ ve lost access to the money . And then they have to spend their time influencing , which is fine I guess . We all do that in a certain way . But we ’ re influencing general managers , or operational managers around quality , and safety , and what the profession needs .
To me , that is a loss of power in a way . So we ’ re going to need the best of the best people who understand how to influence , how to champion , how to advocate . I hope that nursing doesn ’ t go down the route of being a logistical exercise , but that we maintain that professional integrity .
Certainly I hope for the future of nurses working in Australia that they get full access to be able to work to their full scope of practice . Nursing has been around for 153 years in Australia in its formal sense , but people have been nurses for thousands and thousands of years .
People will always need to be nursed so it ’ s really up to us now , about how the nursing profession will look , who will be attracted to it , and how our image , our reputation , and our standards are maintained by the efforts that we ’ re prepared to make now , and what we ’ re prepared to fight for . ■