Nurses need to be a part of decision making for health strategies in New Zealand, the head of the International Council of Nurses says.
Frances Hughes, the chief executive of the Swiss-based International Council of Nurses, was the keynote speaker at a New Zealand Nurses Organisation conference in Wellington today.
She told RNZ News today that nurses were part of a multi-disciplinary team, but also usually the last person patients saw when they left hospitals, and the one they saw most in hospitals.
"We are the professional in hospital that see the consumer the most, and the patient the most, absolutely."
One of the biggest needs for health systems was to embrace nurses in decision-making for health strategies, she said.
Dr Hughes, a former Wellingtonian, said New Zealand had a good track record, having had a chief nurse and nursing leadership in organisations. But she said nurses in those positions must not just be figureheads, but able to influence issues.
"We at times take nursing out of organisations very quickly - we dismantle positions, we often are fighting for nursing positions in communities. So I think we need to be vigilant."
Dr Hughes added nurses were often affected when budgets were tight.
That could result in cuts to the number of full-time equivalent nurses, she said, but research showed investing in nursing was the best way to get results in health systems.