Nurses are best equipped to lead strategies managing catastrophic events because of their real-time, hands-on experience of dealing with the challenging unfolding situations present.
A new report from Health Professionals Bank and the Australian College of Nursing puts forward five clear recommendations to ensure this role can be greater acknowledged and optimised to improve health outcomes for all Australians during disasters.
The recommendations are based on a report surveying over a thousand nurses across Australia, gathering in-depth responses from over 300 nurses involved in responding to the bushfires, drought, flooding, cyclones and storms, and COVID-19 pandemic events over the last three years.
CEO of the Australian College of Nursing Adjunct Professor Kylie Ward FACN said “Australia’s nurses have been the backbone of the frontline in recent years. They’re highly trained and experienced in providing leadership during disasters. We’re asking all Government’s to recognise their dedication and experience”.
These responses informed a set of actionable recommendations to optimise the skills and leverage the insights of the nursing workforce, which the Australian College of Nursing and Health Professionals Bank will present to policy makers.
Health Professionals Bank said the recommendations would go towards improving Australia’s future crisis response by ensuring the on-the-ground perspective of Australia’s largest health workforce are leading influences in decisions impacting the health of those most in need.
“Nurses have always been an invaluable part of our communities, but the natural disasters and pandemic over the last three years have shown just how courageous nurses are in stepping up to the challenges of caring for others and fulfilling their civic duties.
“Respecting the expertise and dedication of nurses requires more than words, it demands action that incorporates the nurse expertise in decision-making and leadership roles,” said Steve James, CEO, Teachers Mutual Bank Limited – the corporate entity for Health Professionals Bank.
The report recommends:
- That nurses should be proportionately involved in the decision-making process of governments at all levels when they are discussing health-related crisis prevention and management, response taskforces, and strategic workforce planning.
- That nurses be offered appropriate additional training when moving from one specialisation to another to meet a current need.
- That nurses be able to bulk bill their services via Medicare provider numbers and an expanded Medicare Benefit Scheme, to allow them to provide accessible care to marginalised, disadvantaged, geographically isolated and vulnerable populations.
- That nurse employment conditions be improved by
a. Ensuring all nurses are entitled to annual and personal leave
b. Offering additional paid leave to nurses who have experienced disruptive events, such as bushfires, storm damage and floods, as well as paid leave for domestic and family violence support
c. Bringing nurse pay in line with other risk-exposed first responders, such as police, paramedics and military
d. Creating supportive workplaces that respect gender equity, diversity and flexibility
e. Creating a reserve workforce of nurses at all levels and areas of practice, from students and new graduates, to advanced practice nurses and those who have retired or taken a break, and who are willing and able to re-enter the profession.
- That extra funding be allocated to ensure paid, regular clinical supervision for every nurse, and for the Australian College of Nursing to develop and deliver leadership and management training for nurses.