From nurse to organiser--a challenging transition: an organiser reflects on the transition from clinical practice to NZNO's industrial team, on what she has learnt and provides some tips for members.
Subject: Nursing home care (Forecasts and trends)
Nursing associations (Services)
Author: McKerras, Roxanne
Pub Date: 08/01/2011
Publication: Name: Kai Tiaki: Nursing New Zealand Publisher: New Zealand Nurses' Organisation Audience: Trade Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Health; Health care industry Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2011 New Zealand Nurses' Organisation ISSN: 1173-2032
Issue: Date: August, 2011 Source Volume: 17 Source Issue: 7
Topic: Event Code: 360 Services information; 010 Forecasts, trends, outlooks Computer Subject: Market trend/market analysis
Organization: Organization: New Zealand Nurses Organisation
Geographic: Geographic Scope: New Zealand Geographic Code: 8NEWZ New Zealand
Accession Number: 266344850
Full Text: An unexpected change in personal circumstances called for a new life. With shift work no longer an option, my children suggested I get a "proper job"--Monday to Friday, weekends off. First of all, I had to find one. There was not much out there in district health board land where I had worked for most of my nursing life. NZNO organiser--how hard could that be? Armed with thick skin, tenacity and a strong belief that everyone deserves a second chance, off I skipped to the NZNO Mothership to work. I was very quickly whacked around the head with a good dose of reality.

The hard stuff

Having worked shift work for 30 years (mostly night duty), the Monday to Friday thing was always going to be a challenge. I underestimated how difficult transitioning from shift work to regular hours would be. I did not sleep well for six months--snoozing off in the Monday morning meeting was not a good look! By 2pm I would feet like a lie down, by 5pm I was full of energy and I'd still be awake at 2am.

Having worn a uniform for 30 years, the difficulty of deciding what to wear in the mornings was extremely stressful I thank my sister for letting me raid her well-stocked wardrobe on a regular basis.

Probably the hardest thing to get used to was coming from an environment where I knew what I was doing and knew who everyone was to the tile of an NZNO organiser where, for the first six months, I felt Eke a fish out of water. I quickly discovered there are employers who are not fair and do not value and respect their workers. I have been particularly stunned at what is going on for nurses and caregivers in many aged-care sites. The first time I was involved with an NZNO member who got sacked was devastating. It was hard to process the varied experiences and issues of NZNO members without wanting to "fix" everything. My focus is to ensure clinical safety is taken seriously, staff are valued and respected, and a fair process is followed, while providing the tools health workers might find useful in improving their own journey and that of those who use their services.

Then we had a couple of earthquakes which made everything harder for everyone, made people react and do things they would not normally do. Be kind to each other, Christchurch people--we all have "stuff" to sort and it can be pretty difficult at times. If someone shouts at you or does something random--don't take it personally. Make them a cup of tea, offer to help them out or just give them a hug or, if you are the boss, a day off! Some folk are stilt doing it hard and everyone is weary.

Being a nurse has been a huge advantage and the three years I had on Nursing Council has been invaluable. I still miss the clinical stuff--I find myself in aged-care facilities wanting to stop and reposition that person who looks like they are about to fall out of their chair. A big thanks to my colleagues who supported me in those first few months. I have never been one to hold back on challenging and questioning the way we do things, so I must have been a right pain.

Things I have learnt

* NZNO acronyms (there is a book).

* What a weekend is.

* You cannot eat the same amount, do less exercise and still fit into your old clothes.

* Sleep is not over rated.

* Don't answer your emails at 2am or people wilt think you are crazy.

* Not all employers are nice.

* Not everyone tells the truth.

* Not all employers are nice. (Did I already mention that?)

* I can't fix everything.

* You never know what's around the corner. As I write this it is snowing--how random is that?

Plea to members

* Be nice to your organiser!

* Leave messages and your phone number, so we can phone you back.

* Update your change of address and phone number details with membership, so we can contact you.

* If we don't call you back within a reasonable timeframe, try phoning again.

* Please try and give us more than 24 hours' notice to advocate for you at meetings. Most organisers have diaries that are full for weeks in advance, and it is often tricky to change things around.

* Tell the truth about what really happened; otherwise we all end up looking silly.

I am constantly amazed by health care workers out there who slog it out day after day to advocate and care for their patients in a dignified and respectful way, often under difficult conditions. Legends. It is a pleasure to work with such dedicated, talented and passionate colleagues, totally committed to improving the lot of the health care worker. It's been a big year for Christchurch folk; it has been challenging learning to adjust to "post-earthquake" life.

Things are looking up for me. Three weeks ago my street got the all clear to flush the toilets--brilliant. I now have enough clothes I don't have to borrow my sister's, I am sleeping more than four hours a night and T am fast learning how to be a more organised organiser. Look out!

Post Script

Please get behind our Fair Share for Aged Care Campaign. This calls for minimum safe staffing levels, so every resident gets the care they need when they need it; for fair pay and conditions for aged-care workers so their work is valued the same as health workers in the DHB sector; for one nationally recognised training and education programme for aged-care staff; and a guarantee that government funding is earmarked for the quality care of residents. Go to NZNO's website ( and sign the online petition.

By organiser Roxanne McKerras
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