Kate Hawkesby: Why is it so hard to pay nurses properly?

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Tue, 8 Jun 2021, 8:09AM
(Photo / Getty)
(Photo / Getty)

Kate Hawkesby: Why is it so hard to pay nurses properly?

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Tue, 8 Jun 2021, 8:09AM

It’s sad to see the nurses striking again. As of tomorrow, an 8 hour nurse’s strike affecting all public hospitals and DHB’s will go ahead. 

They’ve rejected the latest pay offer, saying staff are stretched to breaking point, that the pay does not reflect the amount of work they have to do. There are not enough nurses to spread the load, the workforce is not attracting new recruits, and those currently working say they’re completely over worked.

So, as of tomorrow, nurses, midwives and hospital staff will down tools.

As we know, nurses don’t like striking, they’ve called it heart breaking that they've been reduced to this outcome, but they say they’re at breaking point.

Nursing is not a job people go into for the pay or the great lifestyle, for most, nursing is a vocation, it’s something you do because you care, because you want to help, you are called to it, it’s something beyond yourself. And for that what do they get?

Crap pay, long hours, poor working conditions, ridiculous amounts of stress. Maybe they could justify some of that pressure if the pay was better, or if they could dip in and out with shorter hours, but they can’t. It’s long, hard and thankless slog.

I was in hospital visiting a family member last week and I can tell you those nurses are doing more than just their jobs actually. They’re keeping patients spirits up, they’re chatty, and they’re often the only other human a patient may see in an entire day.

They’re getting to know their patients, their likes and dislikes; they’re looking out for them. They’re advocates. They’re often conduits of information for families. They’re doing so much more than just checking blood pressure. We had nothing but positive experiences with all the nurses we met, they were in equal measure proficient and polite, professional and friendly.

And if you think about it, they have no incentive to be that friendly or that engaged. They could easily just do their job, the bare minimum, and leave. But part of being a nurse is they just don’t operate that way, they can’t. They are ‘people’ people. They are tasked with human lives to look after, and they take that very seriously.

I know there are nurses who won’t finish a shift when they’re supposed to, if a patient needs them, because they can’t bear to leave someone in the lurch. Caring for sick people is what they do and I just wish they were paid appropriately to do so.

It’s a tough pill to swallow, because at some stage all of us will either need a nurse or someone we love will. So each and every one of us has a vested interest in a robust nursing workforce; well resourced, well remunerated, and well looked after.

Why is it so hard to pay them properly? And if they can’t get paid properly under a Labour government, when will they be?