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Nurses alarmed at plan to employ non-professionals for mental health nursing

Press Release – NZ Nurses Organisation
NZNO is alarmed to hear Capital and Coast District Health Board (CCDHB) are considering whether the shortage of mental health nurses may be solved by employing non-professionals.

NZNO president Grant Brookes says that the DHB trying to solve the nursing shortage by filling vacancies in Wellington’s mental health crisis team with healthcare assistants is not a robust approach.

“Nurses working in specialist mental health services need to complete a one year New Entry to Specialist Practice Programme, on top of their three year degree. To work in the Crisis Resolution Service, a nurse must have at least four years mental health nursing experience,” he said.

“Assessment and care planning for service users who are in crisis is clearly not a job readily replaced by support workers or health care assistants,” Mr Brookes said.

“To have confidence in their health services, the public deserve and need skilled nurses to assist, so they and their whānau can be sure that the right care is provided and the individual is directed to appropriate services.

“Wellington’s mental health services are currently around forty nurses short, with 13 vacancies in the crisis team alone. To fill the shortfall, nurses are doing thousands of overtime hours and working rostered, double shifts. There has been insufficient investment in recruiting senior nurses and high turnover because of the conditions of work,” Grant Brookes said.

“There must be more investment in mental health. Nurses are doing huge amounts of overtime and are struggling to keep up. A nurse said to me she is working month to month as just doesn’t know how much longer she herself can cope in this high pressure, understaffed environment.

“We would also like to see the creation of nurse leadership and manager positions in mental health, addictions and intellectual disability services in Wellington, to bring the overall nursing view and help to ensure the right staff at the right level are attracted into the mental health nursing workforce,” he said.

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