Back in the 1960s and 1970s my family were forced to listen to junior choice on a Sunday, while my Dad cooked bacon and eggs with fried bread.
Occasionally, a listener would request a terrible song - say, Tammy Wynette’s ‘No Charge’ - and my Mum would demand that the radio was turned up. For a moment we would all feel guilty about the things our Mum did for us for free, but inevitably the effect was short-lived.
I was reminded of this song last week while listening to George Osborne berate public sector workers in a way that suggested they are a drain on public finances and taxpayers. It made me think about all the things nurses do, free of charge, which go unnoticed in every hospital on every day of the week. So here are just a few:
- Staying late or coming in early to be with a patient who frightened, in pain, alone or dying;
- Working a double shift with no overtime pay because there is no cover;
- Helping a patient who has had diarrhoea for the 15th time on a night shift and managing to remain cheerful, supportive and smiling;
- Getting to the end of the shift and realising you have had nothing to eat or drink;
- Acting as a porter, cleaner and domestic when no-one else is around;
- Standing and taking abuse from patients and relatives because they are anxious, drunk or simply rude;
- Knowing you can’t do your job the way you want to because you don’t have time or the staff - but continuing to do your best despite this;
- And for some, ending a nursing career with crippling back pain caused by the wear and tear of moving and handling patients.
Not everyone can be a nurse. It is heavy, hard work - both physically and emotionally - that requires skill, intelligence and dedication. Every day you deal with pain, death, despair, bereavement, along with vomit, faeces, sputum, urine and blood.
Yes, there is a financial crisis - pay may have to be capped and maybe we all need to be glad we are in a job, but undermining the dedicated work of many nurses is unacceptable; describing it as a drain on public finances is a downright insult. Perhaps a thank you and an acknowledgement of contribution would be more appropriate - plus, it wouldn’t cost.