Patrick Gower: Respect our trainee nurses, pay them properly

OPINION: I've obviously got "no issues" with nurses and I am sure nobody else does either.

We love nurses. We need nurses. We can’t get enough nurses.

We literally can’t get enough nurses. And That's the issue.

Did you know that 40 percent of our nurses are imported? That's appalling in my view.

That's because we don’t train enough of our own.

Why? Well our nursing students have to work for two months a year, in clinics, and hospitals. And what do they get paid for that? Nothing. Zero. Zilch.

It makes life bloody hard for them, and it’s a bloody hard job already.

I spent a day with two nurses in South Auckland, at the phenomenal Turuki Health Centre in Mangere. It is at the epicentre of the health crisis, open 12 hours a day taking all-comers when all the GPs around are closed because they are so full.

I was in tears watching Hailey Patutaue-Tongatule and Janet Broughton do their mahi.

All I could think was "we are so lucky to have you", and "we need more of you".

But it is hard to become a nurse. Doctors and dentists get some financial support training placements. Apprentice plumbers and sparkys get paid. But not nurses.

So, one third of our nursing trainees drop out before they finish their course.

One third of the most needed profession in the country don’t finish training.

This when there’s a nursing crisis and Aotearoa is the land of the long white waiting list.

I call this our Nursing "Training Wreck".

It is beyond stupid that we aren’t paying training nurses for their mahi.

It’s nuts. We’re putting up a gigantic barrier to any wannabe nurse. Particularly ones who have families or who are from poorer areas. Or just anyone.

We should be making it so easy for any Kiwi to say ‘I want to be a nurse’.

It’s frustrating when the answers are so obvious.

Te Whatu Ora know this already, they’ve done a report on it.

We’ve got an incoming government claiming they’re going to fix the health crisis.

So here’s a solution. Pay training nurses for the work that they do. It is called earn as you train.

And a memo to likely Health Minister Shane Reti and the incoming National Government: just because it's not your idea, don’t be dicks about it - just do it.

I believe our nurses are massively underpaid once they get to the workforce. That is an issue that I will come to.

But we start our disrespect for nurses while they are training. We need to change that, now.


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