Health Minister David Clark wants nurses to be involved in developing policies in the healthcare system, and holding governance positions.
He said he was always looking for good CVs from people with governance experience and invited those in the room with such experience to send their CVs to him.
Clark made the remarks in his opening address to the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) conference in Wellington this morning.
The conference, held at Te Papa museum, comes about a month and a half after nurses signed an accord at Parliament to implement a programme ensuring safe staffing at public hospitals.
It is also a little over a month since nurses signed the fifth pay offer from DHBs, bringing an end to nearly year-long negotiations.
The agreement includes three pay increases of 3 per cent, two of which took effect immediately. There are also two new steps at the top of the nurses and midwives scale to recognise the skill and experience in those roles.
Thousands of nurses around the country went on strike ahead of the pay agreement after successive negotiations had failed. It was the first nurses strike for almost 30 years.
In his speech today, Clark said 2018 would be a year remembered for a long time.
He said it was a year to listen to nurses’ concerns and address them.
“An agreement was reached that offered better pay, better conditions, and more support.”
Clark’s speech ran to the theme that access to healthcare is a human right.
“Every New Zealander should have the right to control their own health and make informed decisions with access to quality information, free from ambiguity and judgment.”
His priorities as minister were equity, child wellbeing, mental health, and primary health care.
“You, as nurses, are often a patient’s first port of call. You have the power to make an impact in all of those areas.”
The World Health Organisation estimated there would need to be 9 million more nurses and midwives in the world by 2030, he said.
Clark said nurses needed to be involved in health policy decision making and implementation.
“When nurses lead with their voice, there are a range of significant outcomes for people and communities.”
He recognised the “incredibly important and valuable role” nurses played in the system.
Clark wanted to see nurses represented in governance positions.
“I appoint a ridiculous number of people in my role. I’m always looking for good CVs from people with governance experience.”
He invited those in the room with such experience to send their CVs to him.