“The environment we work in is killing us” ED nurse writes powerful letter to Andrew Little

Chris Lynch
Chris Lynch
Nov 29, 2022 |

Kerri Templeton is an Emergency Department Nurse in Invercargill and has written an open letter that she was supposed to read in front of Health Minister Andrew Little when he visited her department on Tuesday. However Little did not address the department or talk to any of the staff who were not in leadership positions she said.

Dear Mr Little,

I was supposed to read this in front of you when you visited our Emergency Department today but you were too “preoccupied” in your 10 minute allocated slot to talk to the under dogs or even to the department as a whole. 

My name is Kerri Templeton and I speak on behalf of Southland’s Emergency Department, every single nurse in this country and our failing healthcare system. 

We are a profession that you can not live without.

We are overworked, underpaid, understaffed and under appreciated.

New Zealand’s healthcare system is collapsing right in front of your eyes and has been for the past 40-50 years.

It will continue to do so unless you start making drastic changes immediately, and start treating our hospitals and staff as a system that is built on the health and wellness requirements of the population, and not a system that is based around financial figures. 

Personally I can not speak for the past 40-50 years of what it’s like to work as a nurse within New Zealand’s health system, but I can vouch for the past 1 year, 9 months and 29 days that I have put my blood, sweat and tears into this department.

I am extremely passionate about nursing just like every single one of the nurses you see here today and the ones you won’t, but our passion is fading because the environment we work in is killing it.

Nurses don’t choose to become nurses for the money, we do it for the love of the people and the drive to make a difference.

However, I have witnessed countless numbers of nurses not only within my own department but throughout the wider hospital lose their passion, because we are not paid for what we are worth and more importantly we feel as if we can not meet the needs of our patients on a daily basis.  

Our current dire situation means that we are working more hours than we are contracted to; it means we can not sit and hold the hand of a dying patient and comfort their family in their time of need; it means we can not put someone’s mother, father, son, daughter or grandchild on a bed when they need it the most because we have no beds to put them on; it means that people are not getting the quality care they require and deserve and it means people will die.  

I would love to hear you disagree with the fact that Kiwi’s are one of the most hardworking and kind people you will ever meet and you should be grateful for the fact that we are looking after our vulnerable people.

But it is time for a change and it needs to happen right now before every one of our brilliant nurses decides to jump the ditch for better working conditions and better pay. If you were in my position, what would look more appealing, a starting salary of $60,000 per year or $80,000 plus all the added benefits. 

As for the 3000 foreign nurses that have applied for jobs here in New Zealand, it is uninviting that they have to wait up to a year for their application to be accepted.

That is 3000 extra pairs of hands willing and ready to support your health system, become a part of our communities and become our family, and you are making them jump through unnecessary bureaucratic loopholes and our people are suffering for it. 

You are the person who holds the power for this change but it’s safe to say that currently the inaction, is beginning to make it seem like you don’t give a damn about the health and wellness of our people or the people that work tirelessly for the government  day in and day out to save the lives of your loved ones. 

Nursing is a physically, emotionally and mentally draining job and if we aren’t cared for the way we justifiably need to be, it will begin to show in the outcomes of our patients. If you took even one good look at our desperate situation, it would be clear to see, it already is.  

I am 23 years old, not yet two years into a career that I thought would be a life-long one, but me and 5 other nurses in this emergency department, this week alone have handed in their resignations or left already for different careers or to work overseas where we are valued for what we do.

I know I’m not alone when I say I am burnt out and frustrated with the system we live and breathe, and there are only so many days that you can keep fighting for something that never gets better but only gets much, much worse.

So Mr Little, we want to know, what are you going to do about it? 

What are you going to do about retaining our nurses? 

What are you going to do about the lack of resources needed to treat our patients? 

And lastly, what are you going to do about paying the professionals what they are worth?

We are sick and tired of empty promises, and our people are suffering for it. 

Māku e kii atu, he tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata. What is the most important thing in the world? Well, let me tell you, it is people, it is people, it is people. And without the people, we are nothing. 

PS: As the health minister of New Zealand it might be a good idea to wear your mask properly too when you’re in an acute area where they are currently mandatory. 

Chris Lynch
Chris Lynch

Chris Lynch is a journalist, videographer and content producer, broadcasting from his independent news and production company in Christchurch, New Zealand. If you have a news tip or are interested in video content, email [email protected]

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