Latest posts by Pam Savage (see all)

Often after providing a lecture or webinar about bullying in nursing, employment contracts of Fair Work legislation, contact is made by a member who is experiencing the catastrophe of work injury, termination or ongoing unemployment attributed to previous injury or conflict in the workplace.

The stories are wrenching and of course the information is inevitably given from the perspective of the affected nurse.  Occasionally there are threads of information that give some indication about personalities or behaviours that might be behind unsuccessful job applications or inability to resume interrupted careers after an injury.

Without interview, which of course I cannot undertake it is only my take on the story and no doubt I am often wrong in my judgement of circumstances.  What is clear, is the total devastation the effect of injury or termination or unsuccessful applications has on the nurse.  They are shattered and they report physical, emotional and financial effects.

Over the last couple of decades the health system has been organized in such a way as to protect itself from risk at all cost.  Staff who have been injured especially if there is a prolonged absence can be identified as risk factors.  Staff who have a record of mistakes or conflict even if they are unaware of that record are unlikely to be given second chances or opportunity to reengage in their profession.

The culture of nursing is I believe, very judgmental and it has been noted in past research that a nurse who is “on the outer” for whatever reason is avoided, isolated and ignored by colleagues who fear the “taint” whereas researchers pointed out in UK studies, staff in other industries were actively supported by fellow workers when they were singled out or dismissed by managers.

I have given a great deal of thought to the situations these isolated, distressed, angry and confused nurses talk about.  They would like a legal solution to redress and restore their rights to work and to resume their lives.  That is highly unlikely and given the costs and the system’s size and power the chances of an individual successfully taking on and getting satisfaction are poor.

Further my thinking has led me to often wonder just how well the particular nurse has understood what might have been a combination of effects and history that has brought them to this sorry situation.  We all see the world though our own perspective and we need to defend and protect ourselves and maintain our esteem.  Sometimes this can lead to denial or an inability to judge situations or understand an employer’s view.

I appreciate this is “pop psychology” but there is one thing that does seem to be universal.  These nurses all want to return to nursing.  Their identity is “nurse”.  They can be in the most serious financial situation but can only see that a job in nursing whether that job is one that is adapted to post trauma limitations or their normal workplace, is the only solution.

The range of skills, education and attributes of every nurse is broad.  All of us have, (if we have been effective), excellent time management, organisation, teaching, leadership and have resilience and (usually) excellent communication and people skills.  These skills complement our caring and nursing skills and are important in any industry.    Yet nurses closed out of the nursing world do not seem to appreciate this.

Their battle to return to nursing and the emotional effects of being kept outside goes on and on.  It would be trite and cruel to say “look beyond nursing”, if as I suspect the deeply entrenched identity that is a nurse and the all-encompassing culture and socialization that creates a nurse corrals us and closes us to alternatives.  That some of our colleagues find themselves in these terrible and from my reading of their letters, destructive situations is something we should appreciate.  While we cannot alter their situation, being there for them and preventing isolation and offering support would be a logical part of our professional caring role.

There are some fabulous webinar recordings by Pam Savage regarding Nurses and the Law at the Nursing CPD Institute. The  Nursing CPD Institute provides good information and CPD  on an array of nursing topics in a range of easy learning ways including webinars and quizzes on the latest information that Nurses need to know – remember the Nursing CPD Institute  was created by Australian Nurses for Nurses!