Lismore Hospital’s NSWNMA branch is leading a campaign to get more nurses rostered in the hard-pressed emergency department.
Lismore Base Hospital’s emergency department is getting more nurses thanks to a strong campaign by the hospital’s NSWNMA branch.
The campaign has secured the employment of an additional RN as an ED resource nurse on every shift.
Staff are also seeking the employment of another RN on night shift. The proposal is being discussed by the hospital’s reasonable workloads committee (RWC).
Meanwhile, the hospital is recruiting to provide additional nurse practitioner staffing (equivalent to 1.4 full-time employees) as a result of changes to the model of care.
The call for more staff was unanimously supported by well-attended meetings of the NSWNMA branch and endorsed by 285 staff members, who signed an open letter to management.
NSWNMA member and ED clinical nurse educator Rebecca Austin said the campaign had raised the profile of the branch among nurses and “reinforced to everyone the power of numbers”.
She said presentations and acuity at Lismore ED have risen over the past three years, with ATS1 (resuscitation) cases up by 23 per cent and ATS2 (emergency) cases up by 41 per cent. However, staff numbers did not increase.
“The highest risk area was the drastically understaffed and over-utilised resuscitation room,” Rebecca said.
“Also, we were maintaining the same acuity and same utilisation throughout the night, when we had one less nurse on shift.”
ED nurses took their concerns to the RWC, which supported staff increases for the ED.
Management responded by asking for more data and the NSWNMA branch passed a resolution supporting the RWC recommendation.
Northern NSW Local Health District management said it would increase nurse practitioner staffing but rejected other requests for more nurses.
The branch decided to hold a lunchtime community rally outside the hospital. However, it was called off after hospital chief executive, Wayne Jones, offered to employ an additional resource nurse on each shift seven days a week.
Rebecca said the resource nurse works as the second nurse in the resuscitation room when it has two or more patients. At other times the nurse assists other areas of the department.
“We felt we achieved something important by getting the resource nurse,” she said. “Our request for an additional RN on night duty is back with the RWC for the time being.”
Rebecca said it was encouraging to see large numbers of NSWNMA members attend branch meetings during the campaign.
“We also welcomed non-members to the meetings as observers. They couldn’t speak or vote, but they could see how the branch was working to improve the safety and conditions of both patients and staff.”