'Nurse Flo' galvanises support around the country

Dunedin nurses Paula Cooper and Anne Daniels prepare for Saturday's "Hear Our Voice'' rally. Photo: Gregor Richardson
Dunedin nurses Paula Cooper and Anne Daniels prepare for Saturday's "Hear Our Voice'' rally. Photo: Gregor Richardson
A social media site has transformed into a nationwide nurses movement which will stage rallies across New Zealand this weekend, including one in Dunedin.

''New Zealand, please hear our voice'' was launched in March by a North Island and a South Island nurse collectively named ''Nurse Flo'' - after Florence Nightingale - as an anonymous forum where nurses could air workplace grievances.

The page has snowballed, and this week topped the 37,000 members mark.

Nursing union the New Zealand Nurses Organisation has about 27,000 DHB members.

Encouraged by the response, site members have organised ''Hear Our Voice'' rallies around New Zealand this Saturday - Florence Nightingale's birth date - to highlight nurses' working conditions.

''This has been an amazing forum for individuals to put their stories up and say, hey, this is the reality of my day, of what happens in my place of work,'' Paula Cooper, one of the organisers of the Dunedin rally, said.

''The terrifying thing is that from one end of the country to the other, it's as severe.''

Nurses have posted online about long hours, inability to take breaks, workplace bullying, exhaustion, tears - but also of their love for the job.

''We're saddened, upset, a little bit angry, but at the end of the day I think we are very determined because we realise our story is everybody else's story,'' Dunedin nurse Anne Daniels said.

''Nurse Florence gave us that platform.''

While the nurses organisation is at present negotiating a pay round with district health boards, and as part of that raising many of the same issues, Hear Our Voice is an independent entity.

Mrs Cooper said long hours were expected of modern nurses, rostered hours seldom matched the actual time spent on the job, and every rostered day off a call would come asking you to work.

''What we do is invisible to people because we just get on and do it - that's what nurses do, we just get on with it, suck it up, and move on. We've become the silent workforce that everything is resting on,'' she said.

Mrs Daniels said she was usually rostered on for three days a week, but worked on average 80-86 hours a fortnight.

''Nurses are leaving the profession as they are under so much pressure, especially the younger ones.''

Dunedin nurses are rallying in the Octagon at 12.30pm on Saturday, and Oamaru nurses are meeting at Takaro from noon on Saturday.

mike.houlahan@odt.co.nz

 

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