2 Aug 2022

NZ healthcare workers feel sidelined as govt seeks recruits

From Checkpoint, 5:45 pm on 2 August 2022

New Zealand healthcare workers say the government's new health recruitment service is ignoring the need to keep its existing people.

With better pay and working conditions offered overseas, many are now making the choice to travel. 

Taylor, a community mental health nurse, said her case load had been increasing over the last five years - along with her level of burnout. 

She has begun exploring different options on offer in Australia, with promises of better pay and working conditions. 

"What they are offering is three to four times more than what I am currently getting, but also offering flights, other agencies have offered accommodation for myself and my family, assistance with permanent residence as well," she said. 

While she welcomed the government's efforts to attract nurses from overseas to work here, she said Kiwi nurses were feeling overlooked. 

Many of her nursing friends had recently left for Australia and she believes many more will follow, with disappointment in yesterday's announcement. 

"A lot of New Zealand nurses are really feeling let down by the government because there seems to be no attempt made by the government to help retain nurses who are currently working in New Zealand," she said.

"It seems like we always have to fight tooth and nail to get what we ask for."

Another nurse, who did not want to be named, said nursing had changed drastically since she started.

"It's not the same workplace I went into nine years ago, we're so much more underresourced, so people are constantly doing over their FTEs, you're constantly asked to do more," she said.

She said she was also eyeing up other opportunities across the ditch - and while it would be no small move with two children and her partner, she never imagined it would come to this. 

"We're just over it, we're really over it. Three years ago when I went on maternity leave, I could take the whole year's leave and we were comfortable. This time around, we've noticed like I'll have to go back to work early," she said.

"I'm just done, I'm done feeling undervalued."

She was also eyeing up other opportunities across the ditch. 

Teresa Walsh, a New Zealand registered nurse who has has trained as a midwife overseas, recently decided to return to Aotearoa after being offered a job as a midwife in Central Otago. 

As she registered in Australia under the Trans-Tasman agreement, she can practice here too - but she said the process had been far from smooth sailing. 

"Working as a registered midwife in Australia and yet I have to go and prove my original documentation." she said. 

"Why do I need to do this again? I have to get police clearance for every country I have worked in since I was 18. It put a barrier up."

And it's a barrier that she said had made her second-guess her decision. 

"I might not bother at all," she said. "It just makes me want to go back to Australia. They would fly me over, I'd do a three-month contract and I'd earn probably almost twice as much."