Explainer: The effect of the nurses' strike

The nurses' strike on Thursday will have the largest, most immediate effect on New Zealand's hospitals, where nurses make up 60 to 70 percent of the frontline staff.

This is all assuming it goes ahead, which it might not - district health boards (DHBs) are still holding out hope it will all be resolved tomorrow.

Before we delve into the logistics, the first and most important thing: Anyone experiencing a medical emergency should not delay going to hospital. If it's non-urgent, go to a GP, call Healthline for free on 0800 611 116 or see a pharmacist.

Why will hospitals be most affected?

Most nurses in hospitals belong to the New Zealand Nurses Organisation. We're talking membership probably around 90 percent in most hospitals. Membership is lower in out-patient clinics and the community.

What about people who are really sick or are hurt on Thursday?

DHBs are obliged to provide life-preserving services. They have all sorted out plans with the union, letting the union know how many nurses will be needed to provide services that will save lives and prevent disabilities.

That means there will be nurses to do things like set bones, take lumbar punctures for those with meningitis and blood test the critically ill.

What will happen to people in hospital?

Patients in hospital will have to be more patient than usual.

Nurses do a lot of really important work that's not technically 'life-saving'. That's things like turning people on bedrests, inserting intravenous pumps, helping people go to the bathroom so they don't fall and bathing them.

People in hospital will have to wait longer for help with those things. In some cases, whanau, volunteers and doctors will be asked to help out. 

What about scheduled surgery?

Everyone with appointments or surgeries should have been contacted by their DHB. If you have something scheduled, contact your DHB to double check it's still going ahead.

When, exactly, is the strike?

For a 24-hour period from 7am on 12 July to 7am on Friday 13 July.

What about my appointment with the nurse at my GP/Family Planning/other healthcare provider?

Some services like Family Planning are not affected by the strike, but others could be if the nurses are paid by the DHB. If you already have an appointment booked, it's safe to assume you're still on.