In reply to psychiatric nurse Aoife Butler’s viral post (here) about herself and her colleagues walking to work in last month’s horrendous snow, a midwife posted a heartfelt response to the reality that faces nurses on a daily basis.
I’m very sorry to see that at this early stage in your career you are so disillusioned, I’m trying not to sound condescending when I say WELCOME TO HSE NURSING. As you may notice, I too am a tad disillusioned.
I will begin on a positive note and acknowledge the reasons we all do this job; nursing itself can be a fabulous career. We get the honour of holding someone’s hand in their darkest hour. We get the privilege of strangers trusting you with their lives and that of those they love the most. We get to use our training, knowledge and skills to make a difference and call it our job. What us nurses complain about is not any of the actual aspects of nursing.
It is the conditions; the under-staffing, the overcrowding, the poor salaries (pay cut after pay cut, and tax increases and a higher cost of living), the extra paperwork, the extra responsibilities piled upon nurses year after year, the under-funding for the units in which we work, the stress of leaving a 13 hour shift feeling like you have neglected some of your patients because you had 2 emergencies and 4 admissions and one dying patient. It’s leaving work dehydrated not having taken your breaks and knowing that you will have to do it all again tomorrow. It should be acknowledged that it’s nurses like you Aoife who walked to work in a red weather warning and my nurse friends around the country who slept on trolleys in Outpatient Departments for 3 nights so that they could staff the wards who keep this countries health services running. I’m not sure nurses in other countries would put up with the same conditions.
So Aoife, take heart and know that it’s not just you or your colleagues that the HSE doesn’t care about, it’s actually all of us; psychiatric nurses, general nurse and midwives.
Let me tell you my story, I went into nursing straight from school and during my 4 years of training the recession hit. Overnight, it appeared that conditions took a turn for the worse. The first time I saw medical patients on trolleys in the hall of a surgical ward I saw the nurse manager cry with frustration. I’m sure she stopped crying though when she realised it was pointless and that this was the way it would be from now on. I don’t know if she ever did stop crying though, because the HSE embargo was on and my nursing class due to graduate that year were advised to emigrate for work. And that, we did in our droves.
In the UK, we were given continuing professional development courses, pay increases, promotions, support and recognition. There is a good standard of living for nurses. After a few years I went to nurse in Australia and here there was amazing wages and a laid-back, stress free, well-staffed (and when staffed by predominantly Irish nurses perhaps overstaffed) working environment.
I came home then, as Ireland is always calling a home bird like me with it’s far away green hills and family members. I signed up to do a higher diploma in midwifery, sponsored and paid for by the HSE in a well known maternity hospital. Much to my disappointment, I can confirm that midwifery conditions are similar to that of nursing. For 18 months, my fellow ex-nurses and I slogged away working days, nights, weekends, holidays in stressful conditions whilst studying and completing assignments. Shortly before we were due to qualify as midwives we were told to return to our old nursing jobs, that the maternity unit is ‘overstaffed’ despite their inability to get adequate midwives working on the floor on a ridiculously frequent basis.
Amusingly, it was around this time that Simon Harris announced the permanent jobs for all 2018 nursing and midwifery graduates….
A colleauge of my tweeted a reply to Simon, detailing our lack of permanent midwifery contracts being offered, or indeed temporary contracts. A member of his staff replied to say they were looking into it. That’s the last we heard. We interviewed for 2 temporary staff midwife positions over a month ago and again, that’s the last we’ve heard.
So Aoife, I just wanted to assure you that unfortunately you are not alone. I left, I came back, I’m running for the less green hills again. It’s the nurses who cant leave that will be forced to continue picking up the pieces, as they have been for the last 10 years or more.
Unemployed Nurse & now Midwife.