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International nursing leader calls for nurses to stand together for safe staffing ratios

He Tipua conference focusing on nurse-to-patient ratios opened today in Wellington. New Zealand Nurses Organisation Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa (NZNO) have brought esteemed international experts to New Aotearoa New Zealand to share their knowledge on how ratios and ratio justice have worked in their countries and how they would work here.

A highlight of day one of the conference was the keynote speech from Bonnie Castillo, Registered Nurse and Executive Director of the National Nurses United (NNU) and California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organising Committee. NNU is the largest US union and professional association of registered nurses with nearly 225,000 members, and  is a founding member of Global Nurses United, a federation of nurse and health care workers unions in more than 30 countries. Bonnie led National Nurses United through the union’s response to COVID-19. She was named as one of 100 most influential people in the world by Time Magazine in 2020.

NZNO Kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku said having Bonnie Castillo speak at the conference was a major coup.

“This conference is about nurse-to-patient ratios with specific attention to cultural appropriateness. While nurse-to-patient ratios are increasingly being adopted around the world, there is limited recognition of the significant expectations and practice reality of indigenous nurses.

“We are very fortunate to have Bonnie with us to share her advocacy and activism for safe staffing for and with American nurses, including black, brown and indigenous nurses who were often placed at the frontlines, leading up to and during Covid. She is truly inspiring,” says Ms Nuku.

Bonnie Castillo spoke about how nurses world-wide joined forces against Covid and that clearly showed how critical safe nurse-to-patient staffing levels are.

“We have known for decades that when we are not able to provide the focused care our patients deserve, they are at an increased risk for preventable medical errors, avoidable complications, infections, an increased length of stay in the hospital, readmissions, and death.

“We know from our lived reality that unsafe staffing levels threaten nurses’ health, including by increasing our risk of injuries from moving patients without enough support - and increasing our risk of experiencing workplace violence.

“Our mental, emotional, and spiritual health suffers when our employers do not provide the working conditions that allow us to care for our patients the way we were educated and called to care for them.

“When we were struck by the deadliest pandemic in our lifetime, nurses around the globe got creative and used technology to share information and strategies, to cheer on each other’s victories, and to grieve each other’s losses.

“National Nurses United members were able to win critical protections, along with our colleagues worldwide through Global Nurses United, because we stood together in numbers too big to deny.

“Covid radicalised nurses, and in recent years, we have seen historic nurse strikes and historic organising campaigns across the United States - with safe staffing as a primary issue, nurses are seeking to advance. In many instances, we were able to use our collective power to stop them.

“National Nurses United will never stop fighting until nurses win ratios across the United States, and we will stand with the nurses of Aotearoa New Zealand and with our colleagues in Global Nurses United, until we all win safe staffing limits to protect the physical, mental, spiritual, and social wellbeing of patients and nurses around the globe, for all the years to come,” says Ms Castillo.

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Karen Howarth
027 725 2680  |  04 494 8242


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