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“It’s ok not to be ok,” says Deputy Director of Australia’s new national health and wellbeing service for nurses, midwives and students, which will launch in early 2024.


Nurses, midwives and students across the country are being encouraged to check in with themselves and look out for their colleagues on today’s R U OK? Day.

R U OK? Day, held on 14 September each year is a timely reminder to notice what’s going on with your family, friends and colleagues – and yourself – and to start a conversation if you’ve noticed something has changed.

“Let’s take care of ourselves and each other”, says Mark Aitken, Deputy Director of the new National Nurse and Midwife Health Service (NNMHS) on target to launch in 2024.

Mark Aitken, Deputy Director of the new National Nurse and Midwife Health Service. Photo: Chris Hopkins

“In nursing and midwifery, we’re all in this together and we need to keep asking each other how we’re going. These conversations can make a difference to how someone is feeling and can even possibly save a life.”

The Albanese Government has invested $25.2 million to establish and run the National Nurse and Midwife Health Service in recognition of the increasing rates of fatigue, stress and burnout which have escalated since the start of the pandemic.

The national free, confidential service will provide peer delivered person centred counselling and case-management for sensitive health issues, and the provision of health information and resources.

Findings from stakeholder groups held around the country during the establishment phase of the new service found widespread unmet need amongst nurses, midwives and students.

The NNMHS, when it opens its doors in 2024, offers care and support for nurses and midwives experiencing sensitive issues in a welcoming, compassionate and non‐judgmental environment ‐ providing a safe place to connect and heal.

“What we’re really keen to reinforce with the service, is that if you’re feeling not great about life, or yourself, or your work, then really connect and tap into that feeling. Honour it, own it and do something about it,” says Mark Aitken.

The new national service is modelled on the Nursing and Midwifery Program Victoria (NMHPV) which has been operating since 2006, and is a free, independent and confidential nurse-midwife led service for Victorian nurses, midwives and students who experience sensitive health issues.

CEO Glenn Taylor and a RN, said the service provided a unique safe place for any nurse or midwife, or student, to come and speak to one of their own.

‘Every nurse and midwife needs safe and supportive people in their lives. Asking for help is a great first step in addressing any work or personal challenge. However, we know sometimes nurses and midwives aren’t so great at doing this. That’s why it’s so important to have a support network around us who we know will ask us…R U OK? Remember, asking someone if they’re OK can happen every day!’

Start a conversation

Starting a conversation with “Hey, R U OK? can have a positive impact on workplace culture and help create a workplace where everyone feels safe, encouraged and supported.

Being genuinely interested in their wellbeing, listening and knowing what steps to take to support them are the core skills needed to help someone.

“You don’t need to be an expert to reach out – just a good friend or work colleague and a great listener,” says Mark.

By starting a conversation and commenting on the changes you’ve noticed, you could help that family member, friend or workmate open up. If they say they are not OK, you can follow conversation steps to show them they’re supported and help them find strategies to better manage the load. If they are OK, that person will know you’re someone who cares enough to ask.

Support

Information on how to ask and other resources is available on the RU OK? public health promotion website

Victorian nurses, midwives and students can contact NMHPV on (03) 9415 7551, email admin@nmhp.org.au, or visit www.nmhp.org.au

Nurse & Midwife Support, a 24/7 national telephone service, is also available on 1800 667 877 or visit www.nmsupport.org.au

If you’re worried someone might be suicidal, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or call Triple Zero 000.