My year as a student editor is nearly over; I only have one blog left after this one and I’ve been struggling with what to write lately.
I was going to write a blog about the news surrounding the preventative pill for HIV and how the media has presented the arguments. I then thought about writing about a few different tales from my three years of placements as there are a few to tell - some amazing, some scary and some sad. Then I thought that we probably all have a similar mix of stories to tell. Mine are probably no different to yours.
So I decided to make this one a bit more personal.
My fiancée has been made redundant and we’re now claiming job seekers’ allowance and housing benefit. We were too proud to claim initially and definitely too proud to tell people about it.
Then I got to thinking – why should we be ashamed? There are lots of nurses out there having financial difficulties and a lot of patients are too. At 26 years old we’re on the breadline. My fiancée is trying his best to get a job and I’m really proud of the way he’s supported me during the last three years.
My £300 bursary doesn’t cover the rent and his £70 job seekers’ doesn’t cover all the bills. The housing benefit still hasn’t come through despite our application back on 6 July. We’re working through his redundancy money very quickly just to survive. The forms we had to complete to apply for these benefits were very confusing and I do wonder how people who might struggle to understand get on!
We don’t spend much – we had to print out bank statements for proof and mine was less than a page for an entire month.
I went looking for advice from my university to find out that their hardship funds had been spent for the year. I was told to come back next year. Hopefully I’ll be qualified by then. But, the big question is will I be better off then? According to the RCN (2016), nursing pay has fallen in real terms by 14% since 2010. I don’t see any plans for this to improve in the near future.
This year has seen big changes in the way the UK values nurses. We no longer get a bursary to train and the government want to remove the nursing voice from the Department of Health. Why are we no longer valued? The way the media portray our profession is often disheartening and the headlines I see merely portray the minority and not the majority.
The Bursary or Bust campaign has seen nurses get a voice; nurses don’t seem to have been using their voices for a few years. I think this campaign has reignited that passion. We have lost for now but I don’t think that this campaign is over and I don’t believe it’s the end of the line for properly funded nurse training. Please remember to use your voice and don’t accept anything less than our profession deserves. If we do, then it’s a slippery slope for the patients we love to care for.
I read an article this week by the editor of the Nursing Times, Jenni Middleton, and I felt inspired to once more stand up for our profession. Where are the leading voices fighting our corner? Where are the leading voices protecting our NHS workforce and the patients of now and in the future? I only tend to hear of issues affecting the NHS through Twitter. Sometimes it seems the mainstream media is against us and I don’t think things are reported as strongly as they should be.
So for now, I’m struggling. We have enough to eat (I’m quite a dab hand at making cheap meals) and a small, mouldy roof over our heads. We’re lucky. Should someone who works all the hours they can, looking after patients and learning evidence-based practice to ensure the care they’re providing is safe, be struggling this much?
Probably not. But I’m not the only one and the people in their tall towers need to see this. I don’t believe in nuclear weapons and I don’t believe in Trident. I firmly believe that money is better focused on ensuring the NHS workforce is safe and realistic for many years to come. I know things weren’t that simple but I really wish they were. I fear for another North Staffs scandal and I fear it may even be happening now and we don’t yet know about it.
Keep being yourselves and keep caring. We’re the next generation and if we try hard enough we may just be able to make a change that protects our NHS for the patients - and nurses - of the future.
Vicki Abrahams is Student Nursing Times’ adult branch student editor