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A&E nurse calls on public to give staff a 'break' in online post

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An accident and emergency nurse in the North of England has spoken out about the harsh realities of life as a nurse working in the A&E department, following a series of patient backlash.

Emma Francis, a sister at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust’s accident and emergency department, told Nursing Times how she recently wrote a blog post to give nurses a “voice in the conversation”, in response to comments from patients suggesting “staff had let them down”.

“Give us all a break, because more often that not we haven’t had one in seven hours or more”

Emma Francis

In her post, Ms Francis calls on the public to give staff “a break”, because “more often than not”, they have not had one in seven hours or more.

The sister, who has been in nursing for six years, said that seeing negative comments and press around empty waiting rooms and patients being streamed elsewhere, made her want to “open people’s eyes as to what is going on behind the doors that they can’t see”.

She, therefore, decided to write a blog that speaks directly to the public and gives examples of the critical patients she may have to care for on a daily basis.

It lists examples of illnesses and symptoms of patients that those complaining about waiting to be seen, possibly do not realise are happening.

Ms Francis noted that one patient with severe abdominal pain because of a ruptured appendix, a baby in resus with suspected meningitis and a drunk “aggressive person kicking off in the waiting room”.

“I wish the walls were made of glass because little do you know each of our cubicles are full, full with people unable to sit and wait”

Emma Francis

She wrote: “You may walk into an A&E department with an empty waiting room and be furious you have to wait to be seen.

“These are the moments I wish the walls were made of glass because little do you know each of our cubicles are full, full with people unable to sit and wait,” Ms Francis wrote about her experience at University Hospital of North Tees.

The A&E sister explained that she also wanted to make clear that staff do not get used to the “horrible” things they see every day and that they still “feel overwhelming emotion” if there is a patient death or a baby who is gravely ill.

“We just have to employ our coping mechanisms that come over time in this job to remain professional and a support for the patients and families in their time of need,” she told Nursing Times.

The blog post also highlights how some nursing staff have to try and hide their own emotions when caring for their patients, because it can remind them so “vividly of their own personal experiences”.

“But we will emerge from that cubicle, plaster on a happy face and go into the next cubicle and try and make you smile because we can tell how scared you are,” she wrote.

“Although patients may feel otherwise, staff are truly always on their side and are always fighting for their best care”

Emma Francis

In addition, Ms Francis also suggested in the article that the pubic could be “outraged” to see nursing colleagues having a joke at work.

“You may be outraged that we stand for a moment and have a quick joke in passing with a colleague, but in a job where you are surrounded by sickness and death every day, that smile may just help us get through the rest of our shift,” she wrote.

“You may not feel your experience is perfect, but in what service or job is every moment of every day perfect?” she said. “We are still only human but together we make one hell of a team.”

“So, go ahead and give us all a break, because more often that not we haven’t had one in seven hours or more,” wrote Ms Francis, who has recently become an ambassador for the Nursing Now England campaign.

The sister explained to Nursing Times that “although patients may feel otherwise, staff are truly always on their side and are always fighting for their best care”.

Since posting her blog earlier this month, she said she has had an “amazing response” from nurses across the globe.

“Nurses have messaged me from all over the world to tell me how much it’s resonated with them and have shared their stories with me,” she said.

“It’s been truly heart-warming to know that no matter where in the world, where you work or what area of nursing you are in, we all support each other and go through similar experiences,” said Ms Francis.

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Readers' comments (2)

  • Good for you for making this post 😁😁

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  • I had a time working in A and E in a supporting role. The UK public no longer seem able to look after themselves for minor injuries (one person pitched up with a stubbed toe). A and E is used as an alternative for a GP appointment. People arriving intoxicated and aggressive is commonplace. We have duty of care. This should be matched with a duty of respect from clients

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