Nurses and their supporters are making banners, improvising nursing caps and creating chants ready to ensure that New Zealand hears their voices on nationwide marches this Saturday.
The 15 marches and rallies to be held on International Nurses Day – celebrated on Florence Nightingale’s birthday each year – have grown out of the Nurse Florence #hearourvoice social media movement. The movement, launched on Facebook on March 4 by two nurses, has quickly grown to more than 45,000 members as it captured a groundswell of nurses frustrated at unsafe working conditions, short staffing and inadequate pay.
The Wellington march will be heading to Parliament to deliver a petition calling for safer staffing and better pay for nurses, which is currently sitting at 32,500 signatures. Nurse Florence founders ‘Nurse South’ and ‘Nurse North’ say that an MP is flying in to Wellington especially to meet marchers and receive the petition. They say invitations have been sent to a number of other MPs, including Health Minister Dr David Clark and PM Jacinda Ardern to raise awareness of the petition.
The pair say it is an incredibly busy time for the volunteer organisers of marches from Whangarei to Dunedin (see march list and details below) who have generously given their time. The nurse-led movement – which filled a media silence gap during the stalled district health boards and New Zealand Nurses Organisation pay negotiations – is not affiliated with any nursing organisation or union. “We would not have been able to make this (the International Nurses Day marches) a reality without all those amazing supporters standing beside us and we appreciate that more than they know,” says the pair.
The movement’s Facebook page is full of posts showing nurses creating banners, sharing logos for t-shirts and patterns for nursing caps as the march draws closer, bringing together the thousands of nurses and their supporters who have been sharing stories and supporting each other through the page over the past two months.
Fight for change
This week ‘Nurse Florence’ posted some excerpts from some of the stories shared to demonstrate “why it was so vital that we take a stand and fight for change”:
“I almost feel numb now. I pick up body parts and feel nothing. I can’t sleep properly. Fifteen years of nursing and I really don’t want to be here.”
“A nursing friend and I, whenever we catch up, often plot our escape from nursing. Truth is, I’ve been plotting my escape since I witnessed the destruction of a senior nurse in the first few months as a new grad.”
”When will we stand up for ourselves and make a change, not for others, but for ourselves? We spend all of our time looking after others – who is there to look after us?”
The two ‘Nurse Florences’ say as NZNO members they were personally just as interested as other members to hear the recommendations arising from the Independent Panel set up to try and resolve the pay impasse with the 20 DHBs. “It is an exciting time ahead for nursing and it will be great to see what is yet to come.”
But meanwhile their focus is on Saturday’s marches. They say, as it worked out, only one of them is able to attend their local march, while the other will be working “but there in spirit and following the events very closely on social media”. They say there would also be a “little bit of the Florences” at every march. “Listen out for the Florence speech that will be read out on our behalf by speakers at different events.”
After the marches they are planning to continue celebrating by organising pictures and videos from around the country to share with others who are unable to be there on the day.
SATURDAY MAY 12 International Nurses Day
‘Nurse Florence’ #hearourvoice marches and rallies
Wellington 12 noon, meet at Waitangi Park (on the waterfront) to march to Parliament
Whangarei 12 noon, meet at Old Countdown carpark (corner of Kensington Ave and Kamo Road) ready to march
Auckland 12 noon, meet at Auckland Domain gates (closest to hospital main entrance) ready to march
Tauranga 12 noon, meet at 120 The Strand (at stage), be ready to march at 12 sharp
Hamilton 11.30am, meet at Steele Park to march to Garden Place
Hastings (Hawkes Bay) 12 noon, meet at the fountain, Hastings Centre to march to Hawke’s Bay Memorial Hospital
Gisborne 11.30am, meet at Old Railway Station ready to march
Rotorua 12 noon, meet at Village Green (opposite QE Health) ready to march
New Plymouth 12 noon, meet Robe St (near clocktower) to march to Puke Ariki
Whanganui 12 noon, meet by the ‘ball’ at the river to march up Victoria Avenue to Majestic Square
Palmerston North 12 noon, meet at The Square
Nelson 12 noon, meeting at corner of Trafalgar St & Halifax St (next to City Council) to march up Trafalgar St
Christchurch 11am, meet at corner of Hagley & Riccarton Aves to march to Cathedral Square
Greymouth 12 noon, meet Dixon Park to march to Town Square and back
Dunedin 12.30pm, meet for rally in The Octagon