Thursday, January 06, 2011


SMH, 6.1.11.

So many acute needs, not enough time

I am a registered nurse working in a state hospital.

Carmel Tebbutt's comments that using a nurse-to-patient ratio as a staffing tool would lack ''the flexibility that is often needed to staff a modern hospital'' made my blood boil (''Nurses shut hospital beds in last-ditch attempt to reinstate talks on staffing ratios'', January 5).

I have worked in many hospitals, private and public, over the years and experienced many different staffing tools. Any tool that states ''flexibility'' is one that can be manipulated to suit the management and is a great excuse for not recruiting new staff or increasing casual numbers at busy times of the year.

Many of my colleagues are suffering depression and anyone who works in a hospital knows the stresses are increasing. There used to be a cycle in the year where it was relatively quiet over the warm months and holidays and busier during winter months, so at least there were some easier times in the working year. This cycle seems to have gone and the acuity remains high all year round.

Nursing has always been a challenging job. It is not easy trying to decide a priority for your time some days when there are so many acute needs and there are increasing problems with patient aggression as mental health, drug and alcohol issues grow.

In my experience over 34 years, the only staffing tool that addresses the variable environment of the ward areas is a set ratio and the ''one-to-four" is the only acceptable way to meet increasing patient needs.

I feel guilty because my daughter has followed me into nursing and I would encourage her to look at a different career. She is already experiencing the frustrations of being short staffed. Many of our young nurses are leaving as it is just too hard.

Nurses are largely driven by their caring nature. It is becoming a common cry that we wish someone would care for us.

Catherine Butler Macmasters Beach