President’s Blog – June 2022
It’s Monday morning, dark, torrential rain outside. Winter has well and truly arrived. It feels hard to get out of bed, so I am writing this whilst drinking my coffee in bed, having snuggles with my pooch Molly.
It’s hard not to feel a bit of despair at present with what is going around the world and in NZ: war, global warming, cost of living crisis, and social disquiet. But probably what is causing me the most angst at present is our health system. The Nurses’ union issued a Provisional Improvement Notice (PIN) in Wellington last week, citing ward safety concerns due to low staffing levels. This is a combination of permanent vacancies that cannot be filled and sickness. The remaining staff are run off their feet. All elective surgery was cancelled for a period of 2 weeks. Admittedly, our elective throughput has been severely compromised with the Omicron outbreak and long, drawn out, tail (as it has in many centres), but the formality of this has put the crisis in our workforce front and centre. And, although I try and see things through a positive lens, I cannot see any short-term fix to this. It represents years of underinvestment and a lack of clear workforce planning strategy. Of course, I’m not suggesting that workforce planning is easy. However, pay and conditions are an essential component of that – when I hear what is being offered in Australia by agencies targeting our nursing workforce, we have some serious work to do if want to compete with that. And in the meantime, it’s our patients that suffer.
The only way I can manage this is to remind myself of what is in my control, in my sphere of influence (which sometimes feels like not very much at all!). Looking after myself, ensure I have strategies to remain resilient, prevent burnout and keep me engaged and present at work and in life in general. At the recent Women in Medicine Conference (which was excellent) Dr Ashleigh Bloomfield commented along the lines of ‘resilient people don’t just keep going, they know their boundaries and know when they need to take a break to recharge’. Having insight is key, and of course, regular holidays or time away from work.
Having that time to recharge though can be hard to achieve – we are all busy, too busy. I do sometimes wonder why we say yes to so many things. I have recently taken on a community role (chair of my local residents’ association), which has been unexpectedly time-consuming, but also unexpectedly satisfying as I get to know my community. This was at a time when it is safe to say, I was only just keeping all those other balls in the air. But it has allowed me to see some different perspectives, even if some are not that useful for me day to day – the constant ‘debate’ around cycling infrastructure, for example, I just have to watch from afar, intrigued by the need for national (and world) change to fight global intersects with the needs of individuals. And wow, individuals are very passionate! The change process is hard.
So, what is the ‘why’ for me? To make small positive changes I think, to bring people together, connect and become stronger with those connections. And, if I can achieve that, it adds to my sense of well-being, as long as I place boundaries around the time so there is enough left for the other slices of my pie of life!
Remember my ‘why’, practice my tools to keep me resilient, and know my sphere of influence: that will help me get out of bed!
So let me finish on a more positive note!
The combined Scientific Congress is coming to Wellington in October. The program is looking great, and it will be fabulous to have an in-person conference (there is of course a virtual option too). I got involved in the planning of this meeting back in 2016, when NZSA first agreed to host it and we decided on Wellington as the venue, as did Mark Featherston (co-convenor) and we had our first organizing committee meeting sometime in 2017, it has been a long haul. As many of you know, the ASA holds an annual National Scientific Congress, every 5 years this is combined with the NZSA and the combined meetings are held alternately in Oz or NZ. So, the last combined meeting held in NZ was in 2008, also in Wellington. For those who remember that far back it was notable for a large marquee that was erected to hold the HCI and catering areas. In a most unusual turn of events for Wellington, it was very windy, and the marque got blown off its attachments! No repeat of that set-up for this year, although of course, I cannot say the same for the wind.
Registrations are open, head over to https://www.csc2022.co.nz/ to check out the excellent program put together by the scientific convenors (James Moore, Nick Rogers and Dan Frei) and sign up. A fabulous social program will be on offer too – a great opportunity to strengthen those connections in our community!