People make me so mad sometimes
There has been a lot of talk recently about nurses wages, several groups are campaigning for a pay rise for us. After all we have had below inflation increases at best (many years we have had nothing) for almost the last decade. Its so bad that last year I was given an extra £400 pay rise on top of the 1% we were given just to take my wages above the living wage!
So I have seen a lot of things on facebook about it recently that made me a little mad people are saying we don't deserve a pay rise that it should all go to minimum wage workers instead or that we don't deserve it because we get a 'free' education.
Well I have two problems with that, firstly the government cannot control what companies pay their employees other than by raising minimum wage, which as any sensible person knows is not the best way to go about fixing things because then people get paid off and the price of everything goes up etc etc. Instead they need to make living more affordable for people so that the minimum wage is actually enough to live on. Secondly: I worked my butt off for my 'free' education - I worked twelve and a half hour shifts for not a single penny doing everything from CPR to cleaning up incontinent patients and everything in between - no one in any other discipline has to work that hard for their education and tuition fees across all under graduate degrees are free in Scotland anyway.
I then seen something else that made me mad - a petition calling for a minimum wage of £15 for care assistants. Now I really don't want to offend anyone here and believe me I know how hard care assistants work, I worked as one alongside doing all the work for free I was doing while getting my 'free' education, but I am a trained nurse and I don't earn £15 an hour! At first I was mad, really mad - why would people think it was acceptable for a care assistant to earn more than a trained nurse? Its not that they don't work as hard as us - they may possibly work harder, but they do not have anywhere near the level of responsibility that we do.
I thought about this for a while and realised what was actually happening here - People don't know how little we are paid. Why else would they demand that care assistants got such a massive wage rise? One that would take them over the pay of nurses and is therefore never going to happen? It dawned on me that the only reason for all this negativity around nurses pay was that people don't know how little we actually earn.
As a society we don't like to talk about money, we are always told that it is a private matter and we should never discuss our salaries or finances with anyone. Well I am not afraid of breaking the mould - as a newly qualified nurse I earned just shy of £22000 ( new start pay has gone up slightly now and is just more than 22k) I got a miniscule pay rise at six months qualified - that's the one where they had to give me the extra so I earned more than the living wage and took me to somewhere around where the new grads start now. I then got another pay rise when I reached a year qualified which took me to £23596 - for the sake of being completely transparent I will say that I actually earn more than that, this figure is sort of an average of what a nurse of my grade can expect to earn, I work a lot of nights so probably earn around the £24000 mark - £12.07 an hour plus an extra few pounds on nightshift (I think its around 30% extra).
Now I never used to think I was badly paid, especially considering I now earn almost ten thousand pounds a year more than I did in my job before I trained as a nurse - however minimum wage has also increased in that time, in 2012 I earned £6.08 an hour so in a sense my wages have doubled however minimum wage now is £7.20 whereas nurses have had a 1% pay rise in that time, doesn't seem right does it. Plus when I worked in the pub I was never responsible for anyone's life, never had to take responsibility for a cupboard full of legally controlled drugs, never had to make a decision whether a patient was so sick I needed to put an emergency call out, had never even seen a dead body never mind watch a person die no matter how hard I was trying to stop it, wasn't attacked verbally and physically on a regular basis, had time to spend with my friends and family, never worked overnight. Had I stayed in the pub I would now be earning just short of £15000 and have a much better work/life balance than I do now. I also wouldn't have to pay £120 every year to keep my registration active, wouldn't have to pay to park my car each day, wouldn't have to spend £100 a year for insurance, wouldn't have people's lives in my hands and wouldn't have to give up so much of my time off to keep my education up to date for which I don't get paid in order to keep my registration.
I got really upset when I found out that I could get a job working nights in a supermarket warehouse getting the orders ready for the next day and earn £34000!
I think people just honestly don't get it. I think they don't know how hard we work for the 'free' education they seem to grudge us so much. I think they don't know that this week alone I have worked through all of my breaks and stayed late to the point where had I been paid for that time I would be owed almost £50 - multiply that every week by the average 35 years people stay in the profession and tell me I didn't deserve my education - or better yet tell me I didn't deserve £500 a month to train how to save your relatives life while I am doing just that. Tell me why I deserve to be sitting here in a rented flat that costs a fortune because I cannot afford to buy one which would actually be cheaper each month.
I don't think people realise how absolutely exhausting a twelve hour shift can be. Twice this week we have worked short staffed, only two nurses on for all our patients who are all newly admitted and most are acutely ill, some are dying and there is nothing we can do and some we are desperately trying to stop from dying and we have to live with the result of that. How my back aches from trying to help patients move around, how my feet are at the point where I have a permanent limp these days due to an Achilles injury I cant afford to take time off for or how my arms are numb every time I wake up due to a trapped nerve that should I have surgery on I would not have enough sick time to allow me to recover and rehab it.
Don't get me wrong its not all doom and gloom - I have a generous holiday allowance of 23 days a year remembering that a week is three days to me that gives me over seven weeks holiday a year. I work three or four days a week and while the twelve hour shifts are hard-going and I do have to devote a lot of my free time to my continuing education, I wouldn't trade it to go back to my six day work week if you paid me.
All I want is for people to understand what we are asking. All we are asking is fairness - while politicians and bankers get payrises into tens of thousands a year, most nurses have seen their wages rise by less than the cost of living has gone up for over a decade. All we want is a fair deal, even an equal to inflation rise would be enough because by paying us less than inflation each year what they are actually doing is cutting the wages of hard working nurses who ask for nothing more than a fair deal.