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'Devotion to patients should not come from nurses alone'


Nurses are feeling under-resourced, working more hours than they are paid for and increasingly feeling the physical and mental burden of such intense pressure. I could have written that fi rst sentence at any point during the three years that I have been editor of Nursing Times, and sadly I don’t think it will be the last time I write it.

In news terms, it’s a bit like telling you that Richard III is still dead. We are not exactly expecting any of our readers’ jaws to drop when they read the results of our annual survey on pages 2-4.

And yet what should be shocking is that these results continue to demonstrate every year that more and more is expected of nurses, and less and less is done to support them.

It has become “normal” to see that nurses are overworked and underpaid. The media, the government - and even the profession -shrug their shoulders and ask: “So what’s new?”.

What should be shocking is that these results continue to demonstrate every year that more and more is expected of nurses, and less and less is done to support them

Everyone should be appalled by the responses from over 2,000 nurses in our survey. The results reveal 63% of them aren’t happy with their work-life balance, 73% think their trust doesn’t attach enough importance to their staff’s health and wellbeing, and 74% felt compelled to come into work even when they were unwell, with 56% of those saying they felt under more pressure to do so than last year.

The survey revealed why: over half of nurses said shifts were only covered “sometimes” or “rarely” when their colleagues were off sick, with 16% saying they were “never” covered. You can see, then, why the guilt would compel some nurses to keep on turning up for their shifts - even if they may not be giving their patients their best.

Also, a third of nurses were working over six hours extra a week, and 5% were putting in an extra 15 hours at least. That means thousands of nurses are working one or two days a week without pay.

Nurses are propping up a flagging health service - keeping it going by their sheer determination and dedication.

But devotion to the patients should not come from nurses alone. Why are they the only ones expected to show commitment?

Even though our survey evidences that nurses are giving more than they are supposed to, the government continues to paint a picture of uncompassionate nurses, coasting along, providing substandard care. Usually they do this when it’s time to negotiate pay or when they need a scapegoat for a scandal in care.

It is sad to admit it - but it is a miracle there aren’t more crises of care. The people making those miracles happen every day are the hardworking

nurses. Isn’t it time we respected them a little bit more?

Jenni Middleton, editor Followme on Twitter @nursingtimesed


Readers' comments (4)

  • Send this to the government jenni

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  • We live in a society that is becoming selfish by the day. However, these same selfish people still wants others to care. They look around and think, you nurses are in a caring profession therefore it is alright for the rest of us to be selfish, but you nurses must not be like us you must give and give untill you have nothing left to give.
    Well the younger generation of nurses will not make work their life as a lot of nurses in the generation before.

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  • Nurses,

    I always respect you as I know they are so amazing and wonderful.

    Its just sickens me to know how badly you are all being treated.


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  • I totally agree. But it isn't just nurses having this problem: they would be able to do little (or at least a lot less) without the support of healthcare assistants. I work in acute elderly, and I know for a fact that the person the patients see the most and who has perhaps the biggest impact on their hospital experience is the HCA. I've worked in situations when a single HCA has been expected to care for 30 patients with the support of only 2 nurses - and this has happened more than once. So, we're getting more and more stressed, but feeling less and less able to do something about it (i.e. go off sick) because there simply is no-one to take up the slack and we don't want to put even more pressure on our colleagues. Vicious circle.

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