"We get a text message almost every day to come in because we're short-staffed. We're just not coping."
Young nurses at Port Macquarie Base Hospital are becoming the "new faces of the senior staff" as more senior nurses leave the profession due to the increased pressures and "unsafe" working conditions.
Katelyn Dawson, 26, is a second-year RN at Port Macquarie Base Hospital and said the thought of leaving the profession has crossed her mind.
"I'm working on a floor and I look to find someone senior for advice and it turns out I am the senior RN," she said.
"I have experience, but not like what senior people have and they're all leaving the industry because they're so burnt out."
Ms Dawson said she gets a text message almost every day to come into work because the hospital is short-staffed.
"It was only two days ago that we had 12 patients between two nurses on a ward with quite sick patients," she said.
Ms Dawson said nurses are "just not coping".
"There's a couple of people I went to uni with who have branched out to other work options because it's too much and they're burning out too quickly," she said.
"To constantly feel burnt out and that I'm not providing patients proper care is really hard."
This has been a similar experience for 26-year-old nurse Teagan Hartley, who also works at Port Macquarie Base Hospital.
Ms Hartley is a fourth-year RN and said it has been a "big challenge".
"Even in my second year, I was told to stand up and be a team leader and be a mentor to younger nurses when I only felt like a baby nurse myself," she said.
"We have to step up and be the senior nurses which is really challenging."
Ms Hartley said the nursing workforce at the hospital is "very junior".
"There are a lot of young nurses and they're all doing an excellent job and doing what they can, but we do need to see more seniors, but there's more of them leaving than coming in," she said.
"We're definitely the new faces of the senior staff."
Close to 100 Port Macquarie nurses and midwives attended the rally at Town Green on Wednesday, November 23.
They joined the statewide 24-hour strike as the staffing crisis continues to worsen across the state.
President of the NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association (NSWNMA) Port Macquarie Base Hospital branch Mark Brennan said patients are not receiving the care they deserve.
"It's becoming critical," he said. "The beds in the hospital are not being staffed correctly."
Mr Brennan said he has seen patients waiting in ED for up to four days, while ambulances can be ramping outside the hospital for between four and six hours to unload patients.
"It's quite dire," he said.
"We had an incident where there were three nurses to 20 patients and that is beyond a joke and is dangerous."
This is the fourth statewide strike this year.
"Obviously the government isn't listening," Mr Brennan said.
"We're losing staff to over the border because of our pay cap in NSW."
Former general secretary of the NSWNMA and current member Brett Holmes also attended the rally in Port Macquarie.
"I'm here to support my local community now in the long battle that nurses and midwives have had to achieve safe patient care," he said.
"Without getting those ratios right, then there is always going to be someone who misses out."
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