It is a very sad state of affairs when nurses are being pushed to their limit, having given their all to save lives and are not rewarded for their dedication especially after the few years where many chose to sacrifice being with the family to protect them while they went off to look after those in hospital many of who had the coronavirus.
It is so important to remember that for many nurses it has not been a job they chose it has been a vocation, something that was in their blood and many could not see themselves doing anything else with their lives.
I remember so vividly the fist time I pulled on my student nurse uniform and there pride I felt at what lay before me. This pride was surpassed when I pulled on my cornflower blue tunic for the first time knowing I was now a fully qualified Staff Nurse. It was a career I loved and gave it my all, not because I had to but because I wanted to. I loved it. The shifts were tough, and often very emotional but you kept going. You were part of a team who all had each others backs, to celebrate with and commiserate with when looking after patients. I would do anything I could to return to nursing however the NHS is not the same place as it was when I stopped work only 4 and a bit years ago.
I thoroughly support the action taken by nursing unions to ballot for strike action. Those in the health service are being taken advantage of. The pay they receive is pitiful next to the work that everyone puts in. Nurses abide by a code of conduct to ensure patients receive the bets care but how can we expect them to carry out their duties when they are being paid so little that they cannot look after themselves.
I have been a user of the health services a lot over my life time and seen how nursing has changed. I have been on the receiving end of some fantastic nursing care but then I have also been on the receiving end of awful care. In the last few years the experience as a patient has changed so much. The morale in hospitals is at an all time low. I have had so many conversations with nurses who are on their knees and feel so demoralised due to short staffing, poor pay and so many other factors too.
This year has been a very tough year for me medically and I have faced some of the biggest challenges and much of this was due to nursing and due to the lack of nurses on a ward. One such incident occurred when I walked out the hospital due to the care I was getting mainly due to the medical staff but in the process of leaving and packing my bags my drugs had not been locked away. I took them, these included control drugs that I had told 2 nurses I had- only to be told they would deal with them in a bit they were busy, I also by mistake took the patients drugs who was in the bed space before me too (these drugs were returned the next day once I realised). It was also not noticed I had disappeared for sometime. In February I had a conversation with a nurse who was newly qualified and on her own in the surgical assessment unit, she looked on the point of tears when I asked her if she was ok, while she did my dressing. She was overwhelmed and had so much to do but did not know where to start. Members of staff had called in sick and there was no cover and she had people needing her to do so many things with everyone wanting their task to be the priority. No one should be left like that. No wonder people are leaving the profession.
I have also noticed the number of teams on wards that are not working well together. On many occasions I have overheard arguments between nurses about what has or has not been done and it should have been done or complaining that the day shift have not done extra to help them out. The bickering that goes on makes for some very uneasy listening. As a patient you don’t want to be there in hospital if you can help it so when you are there and over hear people arguing and saying how much they hate their job it can make you feel guilty. The bickering stems from nurses who are at breaking point. Understaffing, not enough equipment, poor pay, poor transport to get to work, poor parking at hospitals because the buses don’t run at times to get you in for start of the shift. All these things add to the stress which ultimately leads to nurses exploding over the smallest of thing and also making themselves unwell with the stress.
Working in the health profession is not an easy job. The hours are long and the job is hard work both mentally and physically especially now with the added PPE that has to be worn. How can we expect to keep a health service running if staff are not adequately paid. The situation will not change if pay is not increased to a reasonable level to reflect the amount of work nurses put in.
All throughout the pandemic the NHS was at the forefront of everyones minds. On a Thursday evening at 8pm you would go out and clap or bang a spoon in a pan to show support for those working on the front line saving lives. The prime minister was thanking staff and recognising the work they were doing. It was all over the news how wonderful the NHS staff are and how we would not be able to continue as a country if we did not have them.
And how did we reply them?
Well not well. One hospital stuck a sign up offering staff a free cup of coffee as a thank you for the hard work they put in over the pandemic. I was disgusted when I saw that. Such a slap in the face, a cup of coffee in no way reflects the work that has been done. No one wants anything special. They just want to receive pay that reflects the work they do and the expertise they have. Just like in any other job.
I hope those such as the Deputy Prime Minister also the health minister takes action. I doubt they will as they are so far removed from what it is like to work in a hospital that they won’t do anything. They don’t seem to value the hard work and dedication that many give. If nothing is done and nurses so strike the NHS will be on its knees. It will not cope. Patients will die. Nurses become nurses because they want to help and care for people they do not want to strike and walk out on their patients but they have come to the end of the road and it is going to have to take drastic action to rectify the situation.
Strikes are not a new thing however the gravity of nurses striking is so much bigger than other professions. In Edinburgh over the summer we experienced the refuse collectors going on strike for 12 days. This meant waste was piled high as bins were not being emptied. This is liveable with- while it is not pleasant it is not life and death, the same with the postal service who are in the middle of strike action just now, all this means is that we do not get post, again liveable with. Nurses striking and patients don’t get looked after, don’t get medication, don’t get lifesaving intervention, this could result in death or serious critical illness. Nurses do not choose to do this lightly. It is a last resort.
I support the nurses and the nursing profession with this action because it has gone on too long with no one listening. It seems this is the only way to get those in power to take notice and act to ensure the health and wellbeing of the population is maintained and the nursing profession remains one which is attractive and people can see themselves dedicating their life to helping others (because just now it is not).