Most branches of nursing involve bending over, lifting and carrying, with some areas heavier than others. Nursing is a physically demanding job – in this era of the largely sedentary computerised workforce, most nurses remain on their feet most of the day (or night).
So workers’ compensation is an important back-up for all nurses, who are vulnerable to muscular-skeletal injury. But the NSW O’Farrell Government’s threatened cuts to the system will punish injured workers, now and in the future, adding to the social, physical and financial costs they already bear. That’s why a rally outside Parliament House next Wednesday, 13 June, is crucial in trying to put the brakes onto the changes that are possibly ahead. And that’s why the current issue of The Lamp carries stories from two injured nurses which highlight the dangers inherent in the proposed changes.
The NSW Nurses’ Association’s submission to the inquiry into workers compensation stressed that helping injured nurses return to work is the beneficial way to relieve pressures on workers compensation, but many employers view injured workers as a liability to be got rid of.
That’s not the case for Lana Robertson (pictured above), whose manager has been “wonderfully supportive” in finding EN Lana part-time light duties at Lake Cargelligo Multi Purpose Health Service (MPHS). She will not be able to return to work fulltime, however, and employment opportunties are limited in her small rural township. So she and her family rely on workers compensation to take up the slack. She was, after all, injured while nursing.
As was Emily Orchard, who suffered a debilitating back injury while trying to resuscitate a patient as a new graduate. Emily wants to resume her career, moving into neonatal nursing, but has been blocked from the type of light, part-time nursing that would enable her to study for that certificate. Emily must now rely on weekly workers’ compensation payments.
“The stigma surrounding workers’ comp makes it worse … I’ve had other nurses treat me as though they are personally having to pay my medical bills…”
The O’Farrell Government is relying on this stigma to push through its cuts. It’s important to keep in mind that the system only exists to take care of injured workers - and anyone who is injured next year could discover they are not adequately covered or find themselves pushed into the poverty of social security.