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Nurses latest target of PC brigade

By Graeme Haycroft - posted Tuesday, 13 February 2018

280,000 Australian nurses have their professional and clinical standards, which include a code of conduct, regulated by a government body known as Australian Health Practitioners Regulatory Agency (AHPRA).

Their newly updated code now mandates what manners nurses must display to their patients. With absolutely no discussion or consultation with any workaday nurses in Australia, next month 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 or offended patient. Even worse there is effectively no defence to this process should it start.

Their new code now eye wateringly says "– cultural safety provides a decolonising model of practice based on dialogue, communication power-sharing and negotiation, and the acknowledgement of white privilege". Read it yourself on page 15 of the code.


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 the 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 and 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 such as "the reasonable man" test. If the patient and or their family doesn't like you and complains to AHPRA, then a three year university degree and a working lifetime of selfless service could all go down the gurgler.

At the very least the nurse accused will have to undergo a terrifying agonised and protracted 12 month AHPRA investigation.


This code of conduct is simply a disgrace. The Nurses Professional Association of Queensland is not defending 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. Sadly, some nurses do believe that people of non-white culture are inherently inferior as a group and as a consequence must be collectively patronised with faux respect shown for their cultures and given special advantages to make up for their purported identity group inferiority.

But those minority held values should not be forced by AHPRA upon the majority in a professional code of conduct they had no say in and would vehemently disagree with. 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.

All nurses are extraordinarily caring and compassionate and don't need to be lectured to by bureaucrats and academics who have never cared for anyone in their life.

The NPAQ 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 nurses.

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About the Author

Graeme Haycroft is the executive director of the Nurses Professional Association of Australia.

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