Nurses for nurses: Why a National Nurse and Midwife Health Service matters
The Federal Labor party has announced that, if they win government, they will implement a National Nurse and Midwife Health Service (NNMHS). This is a significant announcement aimed at improving the mental health of nurses and midwives across the country.
But what’s it about, and why do we need it?
Nurses and midwives’ mental health is a MASSIVE issue
As COVID restrictions ease, there is still no end in sight for the nurses and midwives who are looking after thousands of Australians across a range of settings every day.
Many nurses and midwives are close to breaking point – one survey of 7,800 Australian health care workers found 40 per cent had symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. It is estimated that one in five frontline workers, including nurses, are considering quitting their job because of the pandemic.
The long established and successful Nursing and Midwifery Health Program in Victoria has been inundated with calls from nurses struggling with their mental health and wellbeing after working beyond exhaustion. But for nurses and midwives working in other parts of the country, a service like this isn’t available.
Australia is already facing dire nursing shortages – we can’t afford to lose more nurses because of unnecessary burn-out.
What is the National Nurse and Midwife Health Service?
Under an Albanese Labor Government, nurses and midwives around the country who are concerned about their stress levels, feel exhausted or anxious, or who are struggling with their mental health, will be able to access a range of personalised and professional support services to help them manage their challenges.
Federal Labor will set up the NNMHS across States and Territories to provide free, confidential and independent support, delivered by nurses for nurses, with information, advice, treatment and specialist referrals.
Local services will be based on the highly successful Nursing and Midwifery Health Program model already available in Victoria. Services will deliver holistic, case-managed support with a focus on early intervention so nurses and midwives can avoid unnecessary burn-out.
The program will be open to enrolled and registered nurses, midwives and students. Federal Labor will work with the Nursing and Midwifery Health Program in Victoria and nurses and midwives around the country to establish services nationwide.
Labor will commit $18.7 million to the National Health Service that will help keep nurses and midwives in the job, caring for Australians.
How is it different to EAP?
Most nurses and midwives in NSW have access to the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) which can assist with mental health support. However, the NNMHS goes beyond this to provide a specialised service to nurses and midwives.
For example, NNMHS is run for nurses by nurses, meaning that those that whoever you speak to will have experience with the issues you may be dealing with. This is unlike the EAP program, which provides general support and is run by counsellors working across a range of sectors.
Further, access to NNMHS is undertaken independently of your employer. This means that your employers aren’t privy to how many people access the service, or who may be accessing it. This is particularly important for nurses and midwives who may need to utilise the service while facing disciplinary action.
Finally, the NNMHS goes beyond counselling services. Like Victoria’s program, the NNMHS will provide holistic and ongoing mental health support throughout your career – not just when you’re at your wits end. They can also provide specialist referrals where you need it.
But it’s not ratios!
That’s absolutely right. However, Anthony Albanese has announced the implementation of minimum staffing in aged care – the one area that they can mandate this for. Ratios in public hospitals are determined by state government, and we’ll have to keep the pressure up to achieve this important reform.
You can find out more about the NNMHS here.