Personally, I think we need a party. A really big “bring a bottle or cake” party.
You’ll need something to sit on because we’ll have to be outside, what with there being half a million of us. I’m thinking a beach somewhere? We’ll set up a barbecue the size of St Albans and hire a fleet of pedal boats. We’ll see if we can get some inflatable bananas and maybe have some races. After a few drinks, we may remove our support tights, tie them all together and have a really big tug of war.
At midnight, when our partners come to pick us up, we will refuse to go. When they insist, we will pelt them with inflatable bananas and storm the nearest pier, declaring it an independent state. Our new state will have a fantastic health service but poor housing. Many of us will sleep in the candy floss booth. Others will curl up on the helter skelter. When we wake up, we will smile, buy some warm doughnuts and wander home. Restored.
‘Nursing is arguably the most emotionally demanding job there is. Yet we don’t protect or seek to reinvigorate nurses to keep them engerised and healthy’
If I could change one thing about our health service, it would be to instil it with ways of renourishing its nurses. Every nurse I speak to or work with lately has described the relentlessness of the job, the sense of being stretched across tasks and responsibilities and the feeling of this being an unending experience. I don’t know if that is a coincidence, or the time of year or if somehow the health service is already preparing itself for the looming cuts that are being threatened by every politician in the country, but it seems too common and too significant to ignore.
And, while I am on the subject of cuts, I am sure it used to be the case that political parties argued about who was going to give the health service the most and we had to decide who was telling the truth. Now they argue about who is going to take away the least and we get to decide which is the most realistic. How did that happen? That’s clever, but not impressive.
Anyway, about the party. I’m not suggesting it is the most sophisticated idea in the world and many of you might not fancy the inflatable banana thing. Indeed, you may want to do something entirely different - yoga, mime, paintballing or massage - but we know, don’t we, that in order to nurse over a period of time, nurses need to choose to do something restorative, nourishing or rejuvenating.
Nursing is arguably the most unendingly, emotionally demanding job there is. Not simply because of the range of drama a nurse can face each day but because of the recurrence of that demand - the unceasing emotional labour.
Yet we don’t address either the consequences or the needs implicit to that with nearly enough attention. We don’t protect nurses or seek to reinvigorate them, or account for how to keep them energised and healthy.
The problem is the act of nursing is more sophisticated than it is given credit for and thus the needs of nurses can become invisible - except to nurses. What are we going to do about, that I wonder?