Nurses share pandemic experience

The 20th South Pacific Nurses Forum (S.P.N.F) was held virtually for the first time in the Forum’s history and dealing with COVID-19 was one of its dominant themes.

The forum was held on the 11th of November and according to Australian Nursing & Midwifery Journal (A.N.M.J), Australian and New Zealand nurses revealed their experiences as frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The conference which was originally scheduled to take place in Vanuatu in October was instead moved online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to A.N.M.J, New South Wales mental health nurse Alice Vafo’ou and Victorian-based ICU nurse Lynda Maclean spoke about their experiences navigating the practice environment in Australia; while graduate nurse Teena Black and Auckland Clinical Nursing Director Pauline Fuimaono Sanders shared their experiences of working in New Zealand during this time.

Mrs. Vafo’ou described the environment where PPE was not always readily available, with nurses and union representatives having to advocate on behalf of workers as clear lines of responsibility and protocols were built.

Mrs. Vafo’ou stated that it took three months before we were provided with appropriate and available PPE.

Lynda McLean who had begun working at the Royal Melbourne Hospital during the pandemic helped organise screening clinics, managed age care facilities with outbreaks and monitor staff wellbeing and she stated that nurses needed to be comfortable with the pandemic’s ambiguity.

“The governance of some of this was not clear, and all of us, the emergency services, the government, the hospitals, we were all finding our way. It’s something none of us has experienced before, and so we were often in situations where you would think, ‘no handbook for this,” Mrs. Mclean said.

She added that a willingness to collaborate to find solutions to complex problems was vital, as was communication.

Teeana Black who had a background in education and maori performing arts, had to relocate away from her family due to her work during the pandemic and she had described a consultative approach to health that relied on intensive community engagement to meet the specific needs of the area’s Maori population.

According to A.N.M.J, she highlighted the need for robust and localised relationships between health workers and their communities.

“What this experience highlighted for me was the importance of connections and support within our Maori community, as well as the strength and connections between the medical team and other services within the area,” Mrs. Black said.

Clinical Nurse Director for Northern managed facilities in Auckland, Pauline Fuimaono Sanders is responsible for the nursing staff of 80% of New Zealand’s isolation and quarantine facilities, and oversees 250 staff across 18 hotels health teams stated that it was crucial that nurses and leaders keep learning throughout the pandemic and shift their practices according to what they discover.

“We changed our process many times in the first wave until we found the right kind of flow that was the most efficient and most effective,” she said.

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