North Shore Hospital clinical nurse specialist Margaret Boreham-Colven's mum warned her not to get into nursing because the conditions and pay were so bad. But she did it anyway for the passion of it.
However, Boreham-Colven was among 30,000 nurses around the country walking off the job today, fighting for changes.
"I didn't really want to move into management or anything. I want to be a clinical nurse specialist because that's where the job is needed, really," she told 1 NEWS.
"We can't attract new ones — that's the scary part. I told my daughter not to do nursing, my mum told me not to do nursing."
Boreham-Colven said she fell in love with the job, though, and thought she'd be paid fairly at some stage — not thinking they'd still be fighting in 2021.
"Why would you do it? You're [paid] less than a cleaner and you've got a $40,000 loan to pay off," she said.
"We need to be recognised for the skills we have and how we run a hospital just like a pilot or a captain of a ship. We keep it going 24/7 and other people come and go but we run it."
Boreham-Colven said in her job she often misses her tea break and stays late at work.
"It goes into my time, so it's my charity at the end of the day."
Today, she was among hundreds of Auckland nurses who packed out Britomart/Te Komititanga, furious at the Government's lack of acknowledgment for their hard work.
Today's strike action comes after the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) voted "overwhelmingly" to reject the DHBs’ second collective agreement pay increase offer.
Nurses are fighting for a 17 per cent pay increase.
But Rosemary Avison, who works as a staff nurse in the recovery room at Manukau Surgery Centre, called the latest offer of 1.38 per cent "a slap in the face".
"That has made us all feel really angry, especially when we see $100 million go to Team New Zealand. Now everybody needs money, but you know, where's your health?" she told 1 NEWS.
"There's a lot of talk about how good the nurses are, but show me the money.
"What we need is a better pay rate that will encourage people to be nurses and to stay nursing."
Avison said she had seen a drop-off in staff numbers, especially over the past year, with many going to Australia for work or retiring.
She said attracting new people and retaining staff was "a real struggle" and made for a "very stressful work environment".
Jean Moor, a registered nurse at North Shore Hospital's emergency department, agreed, saying they are often short staffed, over-worked and not paid what they're worth.
"That's all we're asking: pay us. We've all got degrees and we're not getting paid enough," she said.
"It's not right. Pay us what we're worth. That's all we're asking — it's not much."
Moor's been working as a nurse for more than 30 years, and in that time she too has seen many colleagues leave New Zealand for better money in Australia.
"We want to care, we want to keep looking after people, we don't want to endanger them. But they're being endangered because we're getting burnt out, we're losing nurses overseas."
Moor said she was among those who took strike action three years ago, and said it was disappointing to still be fighting.
"Nothing's changed. Don't make us do this again."
Dale Oliff, a spokesperson representing the country’s DHBs, told 1 NEWS he was disappointed by the strike action.
"Our focus is ensuring patient safety and we’ve been working with the NZNO on plans to maintain essential hospital service to protect life and prevent disability," he said.
Life-preserving health services and nursing services at MIQ facilities stayed running.
However, the strike did impact Covid-19 vaccination centres across the country today.
Oliff said once the strike was over, it would resume negotiations with the NZNO. He said next steps are likely to include mediation or facilitation.
Nurses fighting for better conditions have already warned, though, that today's strike may not be the last.
North Shore Hospital registered nurses Julie Lampitt and Helen Smith said they'd heard stories about colleagues leaving work tearful, stressed and tired, often picking up the slack if someone calls in sick.
"If Jacinda Ardern has a billion dollars to build a cycleway on the bridge then she can certainly help these nurses out here," Smith said, adding that they'd both been working in the health sector for around 44 years each, but turned out today to support their young colleagues.
"We're just so glad that we could do something to help the next generation," Lampitt added.
Middlemore Hospital rehabilitation worker Sami Steele also said today's strike action was "absolutely beautiful", when describing the thousands who turned out to support nurses both in Auckland and around the country.
Steele said personally her job involved a lot of physical labour, but she felt underpaid for the tough work.
"At the end of the day, the New Zealand Government, if you don't acknowledge the nurses then we'll swap over the ditch [to Australia] for more money."
Send your news tips to Rebecca.Moore@tvnz.co.nz