Fed­eral reg­u­la­tors’ ex­pec­ta­tions around ‘cul­tural safety’ are not healthy

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - - AGENDA - GRAEME HAYCROFT Graeme Haycroft was one of the founders of the Nurses Pro­fes­sional As­so­ci­a­tion of Qld Inc

A NEW code of con­duct for nurses says “cul­tural safety” is just as im­por­tant as “clin­i­cal safety” and nurses could be rep­ri­manded or stood down if they get a bad re­port from a pa­tient. This reeks of po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness. The pro­fes­sional and clin­i­cal stan­dards of 280,000 Aus­tralian nurses are reg­u­lated by the Aus­tralian Health Prac­ti­tioner Reg­u­la­tion Agency – a fed­eral body – and their code of con­duct has just been up­dated to now man­date what man­ners nurses must dis­play to their pa­tients.

From March 1, any and all nurses and mid­wives who don’t re­spect the “cul­tural safety” of their pa­tients will po­ten­tially face the loss of their regis­tra­tion and their ca­reers at the whim of any dis­grun­tled pa­tient.

Even worse, there is ef­fec­tively no de­fence to this process should it start.

Their new code now says “cul­tural safety pro­vides a de­colonis­ing model of prac­tice based on di­a­logue, com­mu­ni­ca­tion power-shar­ing and ne­go­ti­a­tion, and the ac­knowl­edg­ment of white priv­i­lege”.

It also says “cul­tural safety” is now equally as im­por­tant to qual­ity care as “clin­i­cal safety” and nurses and mid­wives must now take this into ac­count when deal­ing with pa­tients and their fam­i­lies.

How on earth is this go­ing to work when, say, a young Abo­rig­i­nal kid is brought into the emer­gency ward af­ter a knife fight with his blood and guts spread all over the gur­ney scream­ing abuse at the white nurse who is about to try to help him?

Does the nurse qui­etly sit be­side him, hold his hand and ex­plain in gen­tle tones that upon mea­sured re­flec­tion he/she is aware of his/her white priv­i­lege and this will be in­form­ing his/her care?

You may well scoff, but I can tell you that any nurse who has read this new code or worked in indige­nous health cer­tainly isn’t.

How on earth are real nurses and mid­wives go­ing to give prac­ti­cal ef­fect to the equal­ity of cul­tural and clin­i­cal safety?

Not just “priv­i­leged white” nurses, but all nurses now face real jeop­ardy as a re­sult of the new code. It cuts both ways. A dis­grun­tled racist white pa­tient can end the ca­reer of an Abo­rig­i­nal, African, In­dian or Filipino nurse on a whim un­der this code. Com­mon sense will play no part.

The rea­son there is ef­fec­tively no de­fence against such com­plaints is be­cause the new code of con­duct spec­i­fies that the sole de­ter­mi­nant of whether the nurse is act­ing ap­pro­pri­ately sen­si­tively or cul­tur­ally safely is the pa­tient and/or their fam­ily. It is en­tirely sub­jec­tive. There is no ob­jec­tive test.

This is not to de­fend racist be­hav­iour, but it is the em­ployer’s re­spon­si­bil­ity to stamp it out if it ex­ists, not the body that is sup­posed to reg­u­late pro­fes­sional and clin­i­cal stan­dards.

The new code has been sponsored and sup­ported by the Queens­land Nurses Union to pro­mote its party po­lit­i­cal so­cial pol­icy.

Most nurses be­lieve that pa­tients are in­di­vid­u­als who should be re­spect­fully treated ac­cord­ing to the clin­i­cal prob­lems they present with ir­re­spec­tive of their colour, class or creed. That’s it, full stop.

They don’t need 20 pages of po­lit­i­cally cor­rect tosh in a code of con­duct to tell them how they should do their jobs.

The Nurses Pro­fes­sional As­so­ci­a­tion of Queens­land is go­ing to fight this and make sure that no nurse can lose their ca­reer be­cause a pa­tient doesn’t like their bed­side man­ner.

Real worka­day nurses and mid­wives need to show their sol­i­dar­ity and fight for their pro­fes­sion and their ca­reers. It is un­der at­tack from those who should be sup­port­ing and pro­tect­ing you.

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