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Chief nurses’ plea for resources

Former chief nurses have called for greater investment in resources devoted to the role to strengthen the leadership and influence of nursing at the policy table, writes Linda Belardi.

Former department chief nurses in NSW and the Northern Territory have called for the position to be given more recognition by the country’s leaders and be adequately resourced.

Adjunct Professor Kathy Baker, a former chief nurse with the NSW Health Department, said significant investment was necessary if nursing was to keep delivering high-level leadership to the health system.

“Nationally, as well as at a state level, the chief nursing and midwifery officer positions need to be appropriately resourced. There also needs to be a greater level of co-operation and co-ordination between the roles,” she said.

Professor Ged Williams, a former chief nurse in the NT, said that due to the size, cost and significance of the nursing workforce, the chief nurse should report directly to the director- general of the Health Department and have a direct line to the health minister on important matters requiring impartiality.

He said the chief nursing officer should be an equal at the most senior executive level with an equivalent level of authority and remuneration as the deputy director-general.

“If the system expects the highest level of executive behaviour from our chief nursing officer, then the system should consider how they support, remunerate and develop their rising nursing stars to fulfil this vital leadership role,” he said.

Baker said both sides of politics needed to demonstrate their commitment to the broader policy role and function of the chief nurse and midwifery officer. Without proper investment, the roles risk becoming tokenistic and would diminish Australia’s future policy direction in health, she said.

“It would be invaluable for national and state chief nursing and midwifery officers to have the capability, resources and authority to harness the views of the nurses and midwives across Australia.”

The office of the chief nurse also needs to be adequately staffed with the resources and expertise to consult with the profession, develop policy briefs and to conduct research and analysis.

This will greatly enhance the capacity of the chief nursing office to appropriately advise and support the director-general, the minister and the broader nursing workforce, said Williams.

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