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'I'm isolated and overworked - and not allowed to say "no" to more hours'

Rebecca Wallett
  • 1 Comment

After a 29-hour stint at work in the space of one-and-a-half days I am exhausted and have resorted to turning off all electrical devices - minus my laptop as I’m waiting for dreaded essay results to be released - and cuddled up in bed with my little pup

I’m no stranger to working long hours; I’ve been juggling work and placement for the best part of two years. However, recently work has become hugely stressful. Sicknesses and the departure of many staff has put increased pressure on those left behind.

”I am happy to pick up more hours […] but I’m left feeling unappreciated for doing so”

There are agency staff but they don’t know the people we support as a team as well. We also have problems with some of the people we support not accepting the agency staff. I am happy to pick up more hours - and I never pick up more than I can handle - but I’m left feeling unappreciated for doing so.

Yesterday I was told that if a member of staff calls in sick it is the team’s responsibility to cover this shift. Whilst I completely understand this, surely there must be a point where a manager needs to step in if the staff team are extremely overworked.

”Surely my manager has a duty of care to me as well?”

I have a number of other commitments and I feel I am now reaching breaking point. However, I don’t think I can say no to my managers. One told me that I have a duty of care to the people I support and that is why I need to work this number of hours. Surely my manager has a duty of care to me as well? They should recognise that I am struggling and not make me feel like I am neglecting those I support if I say no to more hours. I am afraid to say no at risk of losing my job.

Unsurprisingly, I am beginning to feel sorry for myself and my health is declining. My eating habits have become unhealthy, I am becoming short tempered and have no motivation to do anything. In this state how can I support anyone successfully and effectively? I am aware that there are people who probably think the solution is to just get on with it and stop moaning. But I am not moaning; I am at a point where I have no one to talk to as the support from my managers just isn’t there.

“If I struggle to manage this as a support worker and student nurse, how on earth I am going to manage when qualified?”

To work long hours and be overworked has sadly become a part of today’s nursing culture but if I struggle to manage this as a support worker and student nurse, how on earth I am going to manage when qualified? Work is all I seem to do at the moment and a life outside of it is non-existent. My friends no longer invite me out because they know the response will be, “sorry, I’m working.” I feel completely unsupported and isolated.

My question is, where do I go from here? I am afraid to approach my manager for support as they just don’t understand how I feel, I’m sure. When I tried to explain the other day my concerns were completely dismissed. I don’t want to be signed off sick because of stress as this would put more pressure on the staff team. However, I fear that if things carries on the way they are now, this will be the end result.

Has anyone been in this situation before?

Rebecca Wallett is Student Nursing Times’ student editor for learning disabilities branch

  • 1 Comment

Readers' comments (1)

  • You are correct in saying that working long hours is part of today's nursing culture. However, you have a contract of employment and you are obligated to fulfill those hours and no-one can force you to work overtime. If you have an issue with the management of your area then you need to seek advice from your union representative. If you cannot advocate for yourself how will you be able to do the same for your patients! If you become unwell due to working extra while covering for others being sick then that will just increase the burden on the other team members.
    Despite the pressure you are feeling it is ok to say no!

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