COVID-19

Nurse reveals next crisis facing healthcare system

The Nursing and Midwifery Health Program Victoria is an independent service for workers to discuss mental health, substance abuse, family violence and other health issues. Chief executive officer Glenn Taylor said the last few years have seen a “dramatic increase in the number of people seeing us and the complexity”. “We’re seeing twice as many people now than we were pre-pandemic,” he said. “We’re meeting a lot of nurses whose retirement was on the horizon … and for some this has brought it forward.” He said workers were struggling with burnout, fatigue and moral distress — upset they don’t have the resources to provide the patient care they want to — as some opt to reduce their hours or leave. “In March of 2020, we geared up for a sprint and we’re actually in a marathon,” he said. “People haven’t had an opportunity to take a break.“We’re seeing a lot of traumatised nurses and midwives.”“It’s almost like going back into the workplace is very traumatic for people because they’ve had such traumatic experiences over the last couple of years.”He said they were also concerned for new nurses who, in a stretched work environment, have less access to senior mentors. “They don’t have access to the likes of people … who have got years of experience who can coach them and mentor them along the way,” he said. “That’s been very disheartening and quite concerning to them. “We don’t see thousands of them (young nurses quitting), but we see hundreds.He said he was also worried losing workers early in their career can impact staffing levels into the future. “It takes three to four years to train a nurse or midwife,” he said. “As a society, we can’t afford to lose nurses and midwives.”He said he feared burnout could worsen in the coming months as it tends to have a “cumulative” effect, but emphasised it’s not a lost cause. “We have to look after them to make sure they’re going to be here tomorrow,” he said. “I do believe we can do that. “They need to be able to step away, to refresh, take time away to get recharged.” A young Melbourne nurse, who wishes to remain anonymous, said she is so burnt out she doesn’t plan to finish her first year on the job. “I thought I had found what I wanted to do,” she said. “The work environment is just horrible. It’s not worth it.She said she spends her lunch break looking at job listings for non-nursing roles.“The hours are not sustainable,” she said. “We can’t be expected to stay back every shift. “I come home exhausted and drained. I cry on my way home.”A health department spokesman said they have recruited more than 3600 nurses and midwives since 2020 to help the existing workforce, who worked “tirelessly” through the pandemic. “We are also supporting our current workforce through a number of wellbeing initiatives including free meals, psychological support, additional break areas and retention payments,” he said.

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