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.