May Day – A Day To Celebrate Nurses And Midwives


May Day is a chance to show our thanks for victories won by union members we still enjoy today. From sick leave to penalty rates to superannuation, there’s a lot to think about and still so much more we can do to improve our working lives.

The below article is an amended piece from 2013 by Arthur Rorris, Secretary of the South Coast Labour Council, in which he shares his appreciation for nurses and midwives and raises a lot of issues we continue to face. It is accompanied by an Emergency nurse’s diary of a 12 hour shift.

Today, the 1st of May, is May Day, a day of celebration for workers in their communities around the world. Here in the Illawarra, I couldn’t think of a group of workers and a community campaign more deserving of a special mention than our nurses and midwives and their efforts to secure minimum ratios of nurses to patients.

As a society we have all become anaesthetised to the endless waves of cutbacks, restructures, redundancies and insecurity in our working lives. If doing more with less is the mission statement, we will all eventually be expected to do everything with nothing.

Imagine for a moment, however, what this means if you are a nurse or a midwife.

If your job is actually to save lives, to care for the sick and injured. If the outcomes and performance indicators are not just graphs and tables on a management spreadsheet but represent lives saved and lost, illnesses and diseases diagnosed and cured or patients stabilised. You don’t have to be a neurosurgeon to understand that unless there are some minimum standards in place for the care of patients and that these minimum standards are enforceable, the results can be catastrophic for patients, health workers and ultimately for our hospitals as well. The diary of a day in the life of both an emergency and a community nurse illustrates both the workload and levels of responsibility that these workers carry every day.

It is not as if our health workers are involved in a fringe activity – all of us literally from birth and at other critical points in our life cycle depend on their care, so why wouldn’t we all demand that as a bare minimum there are enough of them at all times and in all communities to do the job we all expect?

More needs to be done in order to secure these minimum standards, or safe nurse-to-patient ratios as they are known, in all hospitals and health settings, whether they be in major cities or regional and rural communities. Does anyone really want to be the unlucky patient that slips through the cracks? After all, we wouldn’t send a football team on the pitch short of a forward and a fullback so why we would we risk a hospital without the full compliment of nurses and midwives?

I look forward to marching alongside all union members and workers from our region in this year’s May Day March in Wollongong on Saturday. When you see nurses and midwives marching, you will know that it is your health they are thinking of. So give them a cheer or better still join them. To succeed they need all our help and support as well.

On Saturday May 5, union members in Wollongong will come together to celebrate union wins and stand strong in the campaign to improve our working lives. RSVP now to say you’ll be there with other nurses and midwives.

For Sydney’s May Day march on Sunday May 6, wear your NSWNMA scrubs and assemble in Hyde Park North at 11am to march at 12 noon. The NSWNMA will be there in full force so add your name to the list and RSVP now.


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