30 May, 2013

Industrial considerations for Australian nurses responding to disasters

This presentation was undertaken by Shane Lenson.

Within the Australian out-of-hospital environment, nurses have been deployed from various States and Territories to assist in the response to events such as the Victorian Bushfires [2009] and the Queensland floods [2011]. Similarly, nurses have been deployed overseas to assist in events including the Christchurch earthquake [2011] and Sumatra-Andaman earthquake and tsunami [2004]. Nurses are likely to continue in the health response to a disaster. However, consideration needs to be given to the industrial agreements for nurses when released from their normal employment arrangements to assist in disastrous events.

An integrative literature review methodology was used to collect, evaluate, analyse and integrate sources of evidence to inform this discussion on the current enterprise arrangements for nurses with respect to disaster response. Nursing and midwifery public sector enterprise agreements were sourced from each of the eight Australian jurisdictions. These were evaluated for the industrial provisions made available to nurses wanting to assist in responding to disasters.

Only five enterprise agreements mentioned provisions for nurses to assist in disasters. Where these provisions exist they vary in the their consistency, terminology and the quantity of the entitlements potentially leading in inequality and variability in the financial support frameworks of nursing involved in disaster events.

There is no national approach by nursing industrial organisations to standardise provisions related to an emergency event or disaster. Those agreements that had provisions were notable in their variability in the definition of disasters and the terminology used to define the entitlements for nurses willing to respond to disasters. This variability may leads to inequity and sustainability of nurses who are willing to respond to disaster with nurses sent from some states or territories being financially supported compared to nurses from other regions possibility not being renumerated for undertaking the same role and responsibilities.

Lenson S, Ranse J, Cusack L. (2013). Industrial considerations for Australian nurses responding to disasters; paper presented at the 18th World Congress on Disaster and Emergency Medicine, Manchester, UK, May.


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