A recently retired Rotorua nurse has spoken out in support of her former colleagues, who are preparing for possible nationwide strike action.
The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) has voted to reject the latest pay offer including a 2 per cent increase.
National delegates will meet on April 18 to decide the next steps and bargaining strategies, including any recommendations for industrial action. Members will then be balloted on whether to strike.
Meanwhile District Health Boards were meeting the nurses' union yesterday to try to find ways to avoid industrial action.
Rotorua's Irene Stoddart retired from nursing last August. She had worked as a practice nurse and in hospitals.
She said she worked in wards she felt were understaffed.
"Nurses were coming to work when they were ill ... Young nurses are not staying on. They do not want to be on the ward with 10 poorly patients and only one senior nurse."
She said nurses were not paid what they were worth.
"You are just expected to keep studying for degrees and masters and ongoing training. Nurses pay for their practice certificate, they pay to be nurses. They have got to prove that they are up to it and then put more study in as well as ongoing shift work."
She did not think the latest pay offer would even cover the cost of the books nurses needed to buy each year for their continued study.
In Stoddart's opinion, the problems have been going on for a long time.
"The previous government had its head in the sand."
Tayla Thompson is a student nurse from Rotorua in her second year of studies.
"There are copious amounts of research showing that we have a shortage of nurses. The pay needs to reflect that," she said.
"It is a bit nerve-wracking while you are at university knowing the pay rate is not great. I love helping people but when you are already deep into debt while studying it makes you wonder if you are doing the right career."
Next month she will start a six-week placement, which could be affected by a strike if it goes ahead.
"Obviously there are patients nurses need to look after, but nurses need looking after too."
Rotorua woman Heather Carston has been a frequent inpatient in Rotorua and other nearby hospitals in the past few years.
Her mother and sister have also had cancer in that time.
"Between the three of us, we have seen what goes on. Nurses are run off their feet trying to get the basics done. It is the same in all the hospitals I have been to. They are trying to care for people but there is never enough time for nurses to do their rounds or answer bells on time."
Carston is due back in hospital next month but said she would be understanding if nurses went on strike.
"If we are underpaying them and over working them, how can we blame them when things go wrong? This should have been sorted five or six years ago. A decade's worth of problems have been dropped on the current government."
The Rotorua Daily Post asked the Lakes District Health Board how many nurses could be affected in the district and if a contingency plan was in place locally for a potential strike.
A DHB spokeswoman provided a response from national DHB spokesperson, Dr Ashley Bloomfield.
"DHBs are considering possible impacts and have started contingency planning to ensure patient safety in the event that industrial action does take place, although our main focus is on finding ways to settle this agreement."