Constant negativity in the media aimed at nurses and the health service, has student nurse Sarah worried about the future of the career she is training for.
Providing all things go as planned, I will qualify as a nurse this year.
Of course I still have some obstacles to get over: an exam on Wednesday, the dreaded dissertation and two placements. Then I actually have to convince someone that I am grown up and responsible enough for them to employ me as a nurse.
I have to go into the big wide world, find somewhere to live, pay taxes and probably learn to drive at some point. I should learn how to manage my money and set up an ISA and do all those other grown-up sounding things.
All this worries and concerns me, but nothing worries me quite as much as the thought of what lies in store for the NHS and for nurses.
I like to keep up with the news and current affairs, but nearly every day there is a story on how “nurses have lost their way”, how the NHS is in crisis and how we are cruel and callous. One politician even went as far this week as to call nurses “witches”.
Our health minister seems to use his job as a platform to insult the NHS and the people who work tirelessly to look after the UK population. It’s making it harder and harder to open the newspaper and switch on the telly.
It’s frankly, exhausting.
Because I really, honestly and truly, love nursing.
I’ve had other jobs and I started other courses at university, but when I completed my first week of placement I really felt that I had found my footing.
I love patients, I love the team camaraderie and I love how there are so many things to do, even over the course of just one shift. I love sitting down and talking to my patients, when I get the time, and I love being taught by other nurses, when they get the time. I love so much more that I couldn’t even write it all down.
I can, hand on heart, say that all the nurses I’ve worked with during my training have been kind, caring, and compassionate and work incredibly hard to look after their patients. There just aren’t enough of them. And I know that for every story of poor patient care, there are thousands of stories of amazing and wonderful care. These aren’t reported because they aren’t noteworthy or interesting to anyone, because they are the norm in British healthcare.
I am by no means denying that nurses don’t make mistakes. I’m not saying that there aren’t those who let the side down. The Francis report should remind us all of that.
It is also agreed by many that our education isn’t quite at the level it should be, and it baffles me that my dissertation is more important than my clinical practice and knowledge when it comes to determining my degree results. Research is of course important, but surely learning how to care for patients is more so? Surely I should learn about the human body and disease processes and pharmacology before I learn about conducting a literature review?
And, surely, it should be easier for all nurses to report bad practice, without fear of reprisal. If nurses are calling for a minimum staffing ratio, shouldn’t this at least be considered?
I know I am not alone in this. Many qualified and student nurses feel as scared, worried and angry as I do.
It is nurses who shoulder much of the blame and anger directed at the NHS. It is nurses who are the first to face cut-backs and re-banding. It is nurses who find it tough to move up pay bands, and it is nurses are who are demonised in the press every single day.
It is nurses who need to be stronger, tougher and louder.
We need to nip bad care in the bud, and not be scared about treading on others’ toes. We need stick up for ourselves, and fight a little harder. We need to bolster our unions, and force them to speak on our behalf. We need to provide our patients with the best possible care and we need to fill in incident forms and make it known whenever this isn’t impossible.
We need to show how amazing the NHS really is, and why it should be protected. We need to make 2014 the year that we are heard.
It is often said that nurses are the front line of the NHS. So let’s get on and defend it.