Perhaps it is appropriate that it was the International Year of the Nurse. We might have hoped for fewer challenges, but with challenges come opportunties. It has been a time of transitions, of new ways of looking at the world and understanding the role of nurses.
For emergency nurses, challenges have included the need to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic – designing and adapting new pathways to manage patient flow, re-visiting the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), constantly changing protocols and policies, and staying aware of the changing knowledge about the disease itself.
The college of emergency nurses (CENNZ) has tried to support members with online forums to share information and different approaches and their effectiveness.
However, the issues facing emergency nurses are greater than those arising from the pandemic. Violence and aggression remain major concerns. We have made written and oral submissions to Parliament’s Justice Committee, worked with the NZNO addressing violence and aggression against nurses group and managed to include the problem in NZNO’s strategic plan.
We need all sections and colleges to actively encourage nurses to report any instance of aggression, whether verbal or physical, as we seek a safe workplace.
Crowding continues to be a problem, as hospitals try to address the cancellation of elective surgery and acute problems from delays seeking help.
As we are all aware, the issue of crowding is not specific to emergency departments (EDs), but hospital-wide, and needs a systems-based response. The evidence is clear that no single action can effectively address patient flow. Meanwhile, many EDs are being seriously impacted by patient backlogs with ambulances unable to unload at times. Collaboration is continuing between CENNZ and the Australasian College of Emergency Medicine to address this.
This year we celebrated International Day of the Emergency Nurse on October 14 with more aplomb than usual. Using money saved from lost travel, conference and education opportunities due to COVID-19, we sent a gift box to every ED nurse in New Zealand, to show our appreciation for their hard work in a difficult time. This made for a great chance to celebrate and share with each other the value of being an emergency nurse.
Report by CENNZ chair Sandra Richardson