TwitterNurse – sixth instalment

This week I almost resigned from my nursing post.  The reasons are complicated but relate solely to my feelings towards patient care in our current NHS.

When you become a nurse I think you have an intrinsic desire to do good, to help out, to make people feel better.  You are a rescuer.  Sometimes this desire translates into clinical care – injecting, bleeding, cannulating – sometimes into emotional support – listening, talking, watching.  As practitioners, we all want to deliver holistic care, that is to ‘read’ our patients and thereby interpret their needs; in this way, we give what the patient needs, not to be mistaken with what we sometimes want to give.  When we can’t give what the patient needs it creates a tension – we can’t do our jobs and we feel bad about not being able to give our best to our patients.  We don’t feel good and, no matter how hard we work, we feel we have delivered sub-standard care.  Or importantly, we work so hard to try and avoid a drop in our standards of care that we become tired, lost and sad.  This happened to me this week.

These feelings are not good and have an impact on professional confidence and mood.  They appeared in my mind because, this week more than usual, there were significant demands on my time, not all of them directly relating to patient care: sometimes in my job I am asked to do things other than direct patient care – audits, responding to emails, delivering talks to other healthcare practitioners, to name but a few; sometimes these demands impact on direct patient care.  I am not always asked if I can fit these these other tasks, I am instead told they are necessary.  At these times this means that my patients are left waiting for me while I carry out these other tasks that take me away from the department.  Let me be clear, I am instructed to carry out these tasks by people senior to me and I have no choice but to carry them out.  These tasks are varied and can be undeniably important, and multi-tasking is a very much a part of a nurses’ job – these issues are not in question. What leaves me feeling sad and professionally disillusioned is having to leave my patients because someone tells me to do ‘other things’, taking me away from patients who need my time, and patients for whom I am directly responsible for.

It can be difficult to say ‘no’ to a person.  My patients do not deserve a ‘no’; they are the ones who come to me for help, but with the best will in the world, there is only one of me. I cannot be with two patients at the same time and the demands on my time this week have meant that this was essentially needed.  To not be able to adequately care for your patients is a soul-destroying thing for a nurse, as much as it is life-affirming to help them.  Because my shifts this week have been full of conflict, my days have been full of tension, and this tension has lead me to believe I cannot do a good job.  As a nurse, this feeling is dismal and profoundly professionally damaging.

The NHS matters to me.  I want it to survive, not just because I love its heritage and original intentions but because I see its beauty: it gives real help and hope to millions of people in their darkest moments, it provides a form of sustenance seldom seen anywhere else.  But I cannot let the people who currently ‘own’ the NHS take my vim; this week I felt  truly hopeless and some of the people who are supposed to be part of a ‘team’ did this to me.  It strongly occurred to me that the NHS has people within it who are not being honest about what we can achieve and who show no compassion for their colleagues.  They are Machiavellian in their desires to succeed and step on colleagues to climb the ladder to professional success.  This week, I felt stood on and ignored with my professional opinion not even asked for. If these people are to stay in the NHS, I am afraid it is doomed to fail.  ‘Getting through it’ as a mantra for a difficult shift is no longer good enough because the cost to staff is too great; the NHS has to recognise this and to be heard you have to shout.  Stay or go, I will always support our wonderful NHS.

I am shouting.

I hope you will too.



2 thoughts on “TwitterNurse – sixth instalment

  1. I felt a strong desire to reply and I hope you dont mind me telling you this…
    3 weeks ago, I was treating a woman with peritonitis.
    As a specialist nurse who works in a nurse led unit, often I am required to go onto other wards to treat these seriously at risk patients. On this occassion, which is always a possibility, the patient crashed and became unresponsive.
    Naturally, as I have been trained to do, I raised the alarm and dealt with the situation, ward staff came, crash team came, doctors came….patient survived and is actually doing very well at home now.
    A senior nurse in charge of the ward at the time complained and said I had not been helping with this emergency. I woild and have never walked away from a ituation like this. She didnt know about the patient housed on her ward……I wont go into detail, but the point of this story is; I also felt unsupported and victimised by a team of nurses who did not understand my job role, did not know me or my patient who was being assessed on their ward. Importantly, the patient was tended to and saved, there is no fault there on anyones part but it was the politics of responsibilty after the fact that became the issue.
    In my 30 years of doing this exact same job, I have never been made to feel at fault, never been made out as the wrong doer because as a whole, nurses in the past supported and understood each others responsibilities, and also took responsibility for their own work too.
    The out come here is that, thankfully there are still some nurses with commonsense and caring, I was supported by the right people (my manager and the matron) and actions/lines of communication have been put into place to ensure no confusion happens again in the future.
    The main thing for me is that the patient is well, the bitter taste is the fact that some people felt compelled to critisise my ability to protect their own short coming.
    We nurses have always been seen as the group to take everyones elses jobs to lighten their load and we have done so graciously, we are clerks, receptionists, docs, porters, cleaners, counscellors, social workers, managers, procurement, reasearchers……to name just a few roles we have taken on over the years.
    I really dont think people appreciate the size of the role we do…..but you know what? We still retain our patience and dignity.
    Chin up, respect and keep your strength xx


    1. Nicola, thank you so much for your kind words and telling me what happened to you. It does help to know the same things happen to others. I agree with you, we do a great job and we multi-task constantly. I would like to think our colleagues see us do this but sometimes they just don’t seem to. Many thanks.


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