Public health care is facing a crisis as a shortage of nurses is not only threatening the quality of health care as frayed nerves among caregivers and patients could lead to outbreaks of violence, the nursing union warned today.
Nurses are overworked, dissatisfied and afflicted by low morale across the three main public health care institutions – the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH), the Psychiatric Hospital and the St Michael District Hospital – Vice President of the Barbados Nurses Association (BNA) Heather Deane told a news conference at its Collymore Rock, St Michael headquarters this morning.
And with mounting levels of stress, nurses are staying away from work, exacerbating the existing shortage, said BNA president Joannah Waterman.
“There are statistics and figures to show that the outcome of this, because of the stress levels, the increasing burden of [the] workload, results in absenteeism. It is a real problem,” the nursing leader told journalists.
While Waterman acknowledged instances of patient-on-nurse and nurse-on-patient assaults across the public health service, she however highlighted the more recent ones in which a Psychiatric Hospital nurse, Jason Jamal Phillips, 32, was charged before the Magistrate’s Court in June this year for assaulting a patient. An escalation in unruly behaviour at the Branford Taitt Polyclinic on Black Rock by some members of the public in March, ranging from verbal abuse to acts of intimidation and threats, caused the clinic to limit opening hours.
“We have excellent nurses who maintain a very high standard . . . very professional
. . . adhere to the ethical codes of conduct. But however, we do have a small number, like all other professions, who misstep. And so, when you have a small number of persons mis-stepping it becomes significant, because that is what is highlighted and therefore everyone gets tarnished,” she added.
The BNA leader told reporters the association’s council was responding to the recent outbreaks of abuse by bringing colleagues together to air their concerns and provide coping strategies.
A nurses’ forum is to be organized initially followed by a town hall meeting, she said.
“This nurses forum will be an opportunity for our nurses to express their concerns, voice their concerns, their opinions, the issues that are being raised or highlighted,” Waterman said.
“We will have a number of specialist speakers. We will have a psychiatrist and the psychiatrist will look at coping mechanisms; how nurses should cope with assault, abuse, battery, and all other aspects related to that sort of psychological and traumatic experiences . . . and that’s very necessary,” she announced.
Noting that the majority of these incidents are triggered by grievances, the BNA president said General Secretary of the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados (CTUSAB) Dennis de Peiza will also come in to outline the grievance procedure and related matters.
“We need to resensitize our nurses to the role that the Nursing Council of Barbados plays and the Nursing Council is the statutory regulatory body that therefore governs practice and can discipline persons, can strike persons off the register and play a major role therefore in maintaining and regulating the standards of practice,” she told the news conference.
Specialist nurses will also speak to a variety of other aspects including the Nurses Act and the ethical code of conduct to which they must adhere, she added.
The BNA vice president has appealed to members of the public to report any infractions and misconduct by nurses to the council for investigation and action.
“Where there are grievances or persons working in institutions and indeed the members of the public who think that persons have stepped out of their professional boundaries, they can report the matter in writing to the chairman of the Nursing Council of Barbados and ask for an investigation to be done,” Deane added.
She said that depending on where the evidence points, the nurse can be sanctioned, counselled, temporarily or permanently removed from the register. email@example.com
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