By in Personal

I cried last night

I never cry, never really have. I'm just not a terribly emotional person, sometimes its helpful in my job.

Last night I cried, not over a patient or a particularly sad incident but simply over the fact that I had to be there.

Work has gotten so awful recently. We are always short staffed, our patients are always really sick and we take so many psych patients because psych wont take anyone until a medical cause for their erratic behaviour is ruled out - which can take days.

The job that I loved just a few weeks ago is now something of a nightmare. When I parked my car last night I genuinely didn't want to get out of it. Once I entered the building and started the long walk to the unit the sense of dread only got worse. I knew we were short staffed again, every night this week there were only two trained nurses on and you couldn't make up the stuff that happens in our unit. Our patients are really unwell most of the time and need a lot of nursing interventions that take a reasonable amount of time.

Dreading yet another twelve hour shift without a break I went into the toilet that I pass as I enter the unit and just sat there for ten minutes trying to will the sense of dread out of me. It didn't work.

As I got my handover the dread only got worse. I had three very sick cardiology patients, they can get sick very fast and they need a lot of monitoring for obvious reasons. I also had a patient who had been having seizures as well as one detained under the mental health act. I could have burst into tears right there and then. I knew what I was in for - another night in hell.

At about 10pm I just couldn't take it anymore. More and more really sick patients were being sent to us, despite the hospital co-ordinator knowing full well that we were short staffed, they couldn't even give us five minutes between patients arriving. I just sat at the desk in shock, I just couldn't believe that they would do this to us.

All week we had been telling them we were struggling to cope with the acuity of the patients with the staffing numbers we had, begging them to send some of them to some of the other units that were able to take them, or to take some of our harder to manage patients away from us. Patients were not getting the care they deserved and I hadn't eaten in three days.

I decided I no longer cared and went outside for a cigarette, before I knew it I was in tears. The sheer frustration of the situation was just too much to take. I have been a trained nurse for just two years now and without blowing my own trumpet, until a few weeks ago I was one of the most passionate nurses you could have ever met. I adored my job and I worked damn hard to get it. Now all I want is a job in a supermarket, after all their graduate jobs pay better than mine does anyway!

I swear right in this moment, I could walk away and never look back.

This is the real crisis in the NHS. This is not about money but about the fact that because people cant afford to live on our wages they are leaving the profession and that leads to short staffing which leads to perfectly good nurses like me being so stressed that they consider hanging up their uniform for good. This is about hospital managers not even comprehending how difficult our jobs have become they just want to get the patients out of A&E so they don't end up on the news for missing the four hour wait target, nothing else matters anymore. Patient care doesn't matter anymore and staff morale isn't even an after thought these days. This is the real crisis in the NHS - Staff are pushed to the absolute brink, we literally cant take it anymore. We don't have enough doctors so the nurses are trying their best to be both nurses and doctors, we don't have enough nurses to even do our own jobs let alone all the stuff we do extra so the auxiliary nurses do most of our work. I couldn't tell you the last time I helped a patient wash and dress - the most basic part of my job and I honestly couldn't tell you the last time I got to do it. I feel terrible.

There are now more nurses leaving the profession than joining it, and I can completely understand why. Heck I might just join them. I could go elsewhere to a job much less stressful where I wouldn't have lives in my hands everyday, where my decisions couldn't kill people, where I wouldn't have to work twelve hour shifts (plus how ever long I stay late) sometimes without a break, where I would have a schedule that didn't chop and change all the time and where I would earn enough money to live reasonably comfortably, heck somewhere that I might be appreciated. I might even get to work somewhere that has a staff room or even a staff canteen, for heavens sake there might even be free staff parking! The opportunities are endless - I could even get a job where I could sit down occasionally!

Do you know what though? Although I probably will leave my current job soon, I almost certainly wont leave the profession. Somewhere inside of me that passionate nurse still exists, I will find her and I will take a stand for my profession, for my patients and for everyone who works for or uses the NHS. I will go to the unions, I will even go to the papers if I have to (although I can kiss my job goodbye if I do that). We have to take a stand because this government has made sure that this is not safe and this is not fair.

We need to get the idea that this is only about money out of the public's heads, we need to make them understand that although the money is a cause of the problem, it is not the problem itself. I would trade any pay rise I was offered should I be so lucky for minimum staffing ratios - as would most of my colleagues. Once the public understand, we need to strike. I have never supported strike action before now but it is quite clear that its the only way anyone will listen.


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Comments

MegL wrote on July 9, 2017, 12:54 PM

I am just listening to File on 4 - a radio programme on Radio 4 about the mental health crisis and lack of spending there. The government keeps saying they will give mental health spending equal priority to physical health but they don't. They interviewed a nurse who gave up her job because she just couldn't take it any more. The greatest amount of money doesn't matter if you are so stressed you get ill.

melody23 wrote on July 9, 2017, 1:20 PM

It's just cuts after cuts after cuts and the system cannot cope anymore. There are no beds anywhere there are often no psych beds in the whole country, obviously we cant send people home if they are unsafe so they stay with us because there is nowhere appropriate to send them. At this moment I could give it all up and never look back.

I am one of those people who just naturally wants to fix things all the time and I think that's why I am so stressed out because I cannot fix this, no one can. we cant get the government to listen to us, no matter what we try.

Anja wrote on July 9, 2017, 3:46 PM

I just dropped in here to see if anyone is still around, and I am so sorry to hear that you are under such stress. It's hard to be in a job that you care about so much, but that takes such a toll on you emotionally. I hope things get better.

melody23 wrote on July 9, 2017, 4:17 PM

there are still some of us here. it's just been a horrible few weeks in work, I am sure I will feel better after a few days off

Kasman wrote on July 9, 2017, 4:20 PM

This is a very disturbing story not only for yourself but for the entire NHS. I knew it was creaking at the seams but I didn't know it could get this bad - no wonder nursing staff are leaving in droves. As much as I may have disliked some of the jobs I've done in the past I've never had to psych myself up just to go on shift. If the job is giving you this level of stress then maybe now is the time to seriously go looking for alternative employment.

lookatdesktop wrote on July 9, 2017, 5:29 PM

I know one man who works at Parkland in the OR with surgeons who are employed through The University Of Texas, Southwest Medical Center. He is so stressed he has to be on medications to cope. I can relate to your stress and hope you find some other way of earning a living. Working at a hospital being around sick people and dying ones, is one I know is on the top of the list of high stress jobs.

Last Edited: July 9, 2017, 5:29 PM

melody23 wrote on July 10, 2017, 5:37 AM

The problem is we are all too scared to talk about it because we know what might happen to us if we do. You couldn't make up the stuff that we need to deal with and in the last four weeks I genuinely don't think I have been on a shift where we have been fully staffed and our staffing numbers aren't great in the first place - especially on night shift.

The other night is the worst I have ever felt, and I really didn't even like my previous job but never like that. I actually started writing my letter of resignation while I took five minutes to heat my food up in the microwave before taking it back to eat at the desk. I just keep thinking that if this job can change my feelings that badly and that quickly, how on earth is everyone else feeling?

I love the NHS and have never wanted to work for anyone else, but even I am tempted by the decent wages, great hours and paid breaks available in the private sector.

melody23 wrote on July 10, 2017, 5:39 AM

It's all I have ever wanted to do. We just simply cannot keep going with the staffing numbers we have. I could leave my job for another sector no problem, the transferable skills I have from my training and experience are in high demand in the private sector but would I truly be happy knowing I had given up my dream job just because it became difficult?

lookatdesktop wrote on July 10, 2017, 11:09 AM

But it sounds a lot more than just difficult, it sounds like it is overwhelming and mentally exhausting. You may like your position but is the stress really worth this? I would consider the private sector but then that is my 2 cents.

LisaSteinmetz wrote on July 11, 2017, 10:18 PM

I am so sorry your stressed. Hopefully everything works out for you and your co workers.

BarbRad wrote on July 20, 2017, 4:30 AM

Melody, I'm so sorry to hear that your dream job has become a hell on earth to you. I remember how excited you were when you finished your nursing training. I'm afraid this is what happens when the government has a monopoly on health care. They are pushing to bring a single payer system here to California and I hope they don't succeed. I think you need to take some time off or you may find yourself a patient instead of a nurse. No job is worth losing your own health over, and you can't effectively take care of patients if you are falling apart yourself. I will pray you will be granted wisdom and relief.

melody23 wrote on July 21, 2017, 11:12 AM

I would give my life to protect the NHS, we are so fortunate to have it here but the current government is running it into the ground and I simply wont stand for it any more. Things have been better this last week thank goodness, but the system is definitely at breaking point.

I haven't decided what I will do in the long term but I am staying where I am till at least the end of the year because I am due to go on some pretty important training course towards the end of the year that I definitely want to go on.