Our student nurse Lorna Mclean talks education, nursing and politics
When the RCN issued an emphatic ‘no’ to strike action on the 30 November, many nurses were horrified, claiming the union was out of date, out of touch and only interested in furthering its own political standing.
From a student’s perspective, it looks a little different.
It can be no surprise that the public image of nursing is pretty poor. The media presents us as too busy and too ambitious to care for our patients, as hardcore party-girls (male nurses are never mentioned) happy to ignore filth and suffering as long as we get through our shifts.
This image is hardly going to be helped by striking, thus ‘not caring’ for our patients for something as inconsequential as pensions.
Pensions and work conditions are a vital part of re-numeration packages, but the cuts proposed to them are not simply about finances.
The heart of the matter is the way the cuts undermine the profession we have built up- it is an attack on the standing of nursing within the heart of communities. This message is not going to make it into media coverage of any strikes. Instead, for those who are watching, un- or under- employed, the message is that those with secure(ish) jobs are complaining about a future they cannot imagine for themselves.
It’s not just those who have been made redundant or are working reduced hours that will be horrified at nurses ‘abandoning’ their patients.
Across the private sector, pay, pensions and other benefits have been slashed in this recession. As everyone else makes sacrifices, the feeling will be that holding the government to ransom by ‘with-holding care’ is somewhat grotesque, regardless of the realities of the way the strike is undertaken and managed.
One only has to look at the lukewarm reception the recent teacher’s strike received to understand that striking is not the force it once was. The idea that nursing has suffered blow after blow over the last decade, leaving morale scraping the barrel will be lost in the faces of families worried about their relatives. If the RCN wants to improve conditions, it must convince the public that we are worth it. That is their real challenge.
As for me and other student nurses out there, well, we’ll support future action. If we can ever find a job that is …
Lorna McLean is a final year student studying child health nursing at Edinburgh Napier. Lorna has a MA (hons) degree in politics and international relations.