The complaints include issues such as unmet hygiene needs, failure to help with eating and a lack of privacy. How come I am not surprised
The reason for this problem, as I see it, is that you can only squeeze a nurse so far. A nurse can only achieve what is humanly possible. Some of the complaints might relate to nurses and falling standards but heavy workloads must also play a part. I honestly do not know any lazy nurses where I work. They would not survive if they did not pull their weight.
I am not blaming trusts about all this extra work. It is a demographic fact – we have more older people in the community and, as a result, more of those who are in hospital are elderly. Acute-response teams now care for mobile and self-caring adults who, previously, would have been admitted for IV antibiotics and treatment of deep venous thrombosis, among many others conditions.
Staff levels are pretty much the same but the people being admitted to hospital are becoming more and more dependent and so place higher demands on nurses. In addition, throughput is higher with patients being discharged more quickly – those
from residential and nursing homes are discharged with particularly great speed.
The real issue is that this is only the beginning of the problem. The population is ageing rapidly and the proportion of older people needing hospitalisation will increase in the future. No wonder nursing students are dropping out of their university courses at such high rates. They quickly realise that they will not be able to work at the pace expected of them for the next 45 years and deliver a good standard of care.
There are days when I’m hanging in there by the skin of my teeth – and days like that don’t leave me feeling too good. I know the only reason I survive is because I work part-time. If I was working full time, I’d be on long-term sick leave by now.
I don’t think anyone would refute the fact that nursing is a high-stress job but there is no way that this stress can become anything but worse unless there is a review of how nurses work.
We could perhaps perform more efficiently by improving the environment in which we work – for example, by positioning treatment rooms, linen cupboards and sluices centrally in the wards to save walking time – but we cannot work any harder.
Gail Smith is a staff nurse in Cardiff
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