Nurses' concerns revealed

Carole Heatly.
Carole Heatly.
More than half of the nurses in the Dunedin Hospital emergency department have been actively looking for a new job, a staff survey released to the Otago Daily Times reveals.

Nurses had sometimes been left ''chasing'' essential equipment and help from doctors, and nearly 20% did not have time to comply with a medication check standard.

The survey was conducted in April and May, in response to concern over working conditions, and results were released on Friday, under the Official Information Act, a month after they were requested. Southern District Health Board chief executive Carole Heatly said in a written response the survey was an opportunity for the board to listen to staff, ''celebrate success'', and find opportunities for improvement.

The survey, which drew an 85% response rate, shows some nurses felt they did not have adequate medical support.

It shows concern over nurse-to-patient ratios, ability to express opinions in staff meetings, and staff morale.

There was however a strong team culture.

Nurses supported one another, while feeling unappreciated by management.

Nurses' survey feedback included in an internal memorandum also released revealed complaints over inadequate equipment, including ''chasing thermometers and stethoscopes'', linen running out at weekends, lack of space for patients, and inadequate IT.

In some cases procedures and policies were unclear or not followed.

Nurses were ''chasing'' doctors for assistance, and had inadequate meal break cover.

Leave requests were often declined, and there were ''too many texts'' asking them to pick up extra shifts.

Communication was ''sometimes not respectful'', and the delineation of senior roles was not always clear.

Doctors tended to use senior nurses when this was not required, staff meetings were not attended, and departing staff were not celebrated.

Ms Heatly said several changes had been made to address the issues, and some would take longer to fix than others.

''We are confident that the Dunedin Hospital emergency department delivers a high standard of patient care to our community on a daily basis,'' she said.

Staff workshops had been held, and working groups to focus on particular problems, such as communication, or education, were to be finalised by today.

''These sessions were positive and the nurses who attended agreed the steps being taken were a constructive way forward.''

The board has started leadership training for the senior nursing team, increased nursing numbers over winter, addressed equipment and linen shortages, and was obtaining quotes for minor facility changes.

Regular follow-up sessions with staff would be held over the next six months, Ms Heatly said.

Nurses have their say: Dunedin Hospital emergency department findings

Have you been actively looking for a job outside ED?
Yes - 53% (24 nurses)
No - 47% (21)

Do you consider the nurse patient ratio allocated to you is clinically safe?
Always - 2% (1)
Mostly - 28% (13)
Sometimes - 62% (29)
Never - 9% (4)

Do you consider morale to be high?
Always - 0
Mostly 8% (4)
Sometimes - 52% (25)
Never - 39.5% (19)

Are you able to comply with the health board's standard of checking medication?
Always - 13% (6)
Mostly - 28% (13)
Sometimes - 36% (17)
Never - 19% (9)

Do you have adequate medical support for patients?
Always - 6% (3)
Mostly - 10% (5)
Sometimes - 69% (33)
Never - 14.5% (7)

Are you able to express opinions in staff meetings?
Always - 13% (6)
Mostly 22% (10)
Sometimes - 42% (19)
Never - 22% (10)

Do you fell supported by management (outside the department)?
Always - 0
Mostly - 21% (10)
Sometimes -34% (16)
Never 45% (21)

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