Who would be ?

Who would be a Nurse today ?

In April 2022 Nurses and other care workers will be the first group of professionals in the UK who will only be allowed to do their job if they are fully vaccinated. As of December 2021 the term ‘fully vaccinated’ means two doses of vaccine but that seems to be already creeping up with a 3rd dose already strongly recommended and with the increasing possibility of a yearly booster becoming ‘required’. As i write, the UK government state that some 92% of staff have already been vaccinated so they seem to see it as an easy walkover to insist on 100% vaccine compliance even though that might leave the NHS with a 90,000 shortfall in staff…..those who are forced out for non compliance.

At the same time, with the pandemic becoming endemic and the likelihood of all care workers being exposed and possibly testing positive there could be an absolute crisis in healthcare staffing even worse than it is now.

Two things immediately come to mind – that the stated reason is for staff and patient ‘safety’, and lets remember that the vaccine doesn’t prevent workers from being exposed, infected and becoming positive , and secondly that this can only happen because the vast majority of Nurses for example tend towards compliance and obedience and are almost conditioned by their work to not question authority ; perhaps the single largest group of workers to keep scared, obedient and compliant because many of them are now the main or solo wage earners in their family.

Being a nurse today basically sucks !

I started my nurse training (SRN) in 1981 and i qualified in 1984, it was a strange experience at first because i went from an all male working environment to an all female one….aside from me in my group and one in the set ahead of me. This was a normal, for the time, school of nursing almost like a trade apprenticeship and not like a university ; we spent some time in ‘school’ and then the rest of it in clinical placements where we were essentially part of the staff rota. We were ‘paid’ for that work – i seem to remember that my first paycheck was £37 (a month’s pay) once my room fee, national insurance, tax and pension contributions were deducted : it was a bit of a ‘bones of arse’ situation but at least i didn’t finish that time with a large debt.

Today, anyone who starts their RN training goes to university and not a school of nursing and in doing so they actually have to pay their own tuition fees at £9,000 a year and of course their everyday costs of living while also nor starting to build up a National Insurance and pension account – thus when they qualify most of them will start their working lives with at least £27,000 of student debt and really all they can then do is start to work for the government in the shape of the NHS with a fixed wage structure. Today, a newly qualified nurse (preceptee) starts off on around £26,000 Pa with a take home of around £19,000 but remember that the newly qualified nurse will also have to start paying off their student loan.

Just as an aside, if we compare nurses salaries over the last 10 years compared with members of Parliament say we see that MP’s had some 8 pay rises in 10 years, often greater than 10% each time while in the same period nurses salaries actually went down (in real terms) by about 7% when corrected against inflation. At the same time nurses pension conditions were effectively worsened, going from a moderate payout based on final salary to an averaged one with a poorer payout and steadily an increasing age at which they can retire. I was lucky in that i retired in the last period of final salary pensions and with a moderate pension based on my 40 years plus in service….nothing ‘gold plated’ about that as many in the media would have it believed.

So here’s a question – is nursing an easy job or a hard one and is the work satisfying ?

My impression is that the basic job has become a lot harder and a lot less satisfying because the nature of healthcare has changed, as has the management structure of nursing and hospitals where most acute sector staff work. Acute healthcare (hospitals) have become much busier over the last 20 years with a huge surge in both acute admissions and a slowly declining secondary support structure which has resulted in a ‘backed up’ or clogged discharge rate. Healthcare has also changed in that many patients are now much older and sicker with multiple health problems for which more tests, investigations and procedures are carried out . A small example being that both of my maternal grandparents died from ‘simple’ causes, one of a bowel obstruction and the other from COPD…..both would be treated today even to the extent of routine major surgery and ICU care for the elderly which was unknown just a few decades before.

Another question to ask is how well nurses are thought of by the general public compared say to 40 years ago when i started my training and when it seemed that most nurses were well respected and highly esteemed by most of the public ; i don’t know what it is that went wrong so badly except in recent years but today it seems that scorn and contempt, even anger, resentment and hatred are the norms of today if what we see on social media is anything to by. Of course there are exceptions as there are reasons sometimes when the antipathy is justified as it was in the example of Beverly Allitt in 1991 – although more recently it was the Tiktok video fiasco that really angered the general public.

The public perception of nurses has always been a strange one – from nurse as fluffy caring angel to nurse as faithful doctor’s handmaiden via nurse as ‘naughty’ nurse sexpot and then nurse as child murderer or nurse as fat lazy and incompetent fool…..take your pick…..but how about nurse as stressed and exhausted head of family after a 12 hour shift ?

My partner still works as a nurse and from her perspective she regularly has to deal with rude and angry patients but more often their relatives…..and even worse that it is many NHS managers including senior nurse managers who are the the problem. One frequent comment that i used to hear was that the more senior the nurse then the less actual work they did an the more unpleasant they were in their dealings with the working staff ; the far end of that being right at the top of the heap where the head of nursing was either invisible, most staff didn’t even know what that one looked like or when they did appear it was in a shouty, rude and aggressive manner.

Emily Gilhespy photograph….mask marks.

Postscript.

It’s been a brutal year for nurses – not just coping with lots of very sick people and having multiple deaths in short order but just doing the physical work in full PPE’s all day and yes, going home dehydrated , physically exhausted and mentally drained for days or nights on end.

At this time of year most hospital wards, intensive care units and so on all tend to have some kind of party or night out on the town to unwind a bit – my partner’s own unit staff just arranged a quiet lunch venue which seemed a reasonable compromise ; then, their manager declared that they had to cancel their lunch on the direct orders of nursing management ……period.

My partner came home steaming angry as you would expect – no message of ‘sorry but we think this is the way to go’ and certainly no conciliatory words of encouragement or support ; just orders, and coercion to comply and obey.

Who would be a nurse today ?

1 Comment

  1. Not for all the tea in China Steve. My Irish grandmother worked as a hospital cleaner in the 70s & 80s and came home smelling of bleach (do they still use that?) and full of pride at working for the NHS. But I find it hard to believe that anyone today can be proud of an organisation riven with so much mismanagement, except perhaps the backside-shining pencil pushers running the organization with no idea about what it’s like to work on the frontline or, if they do, very glad that they don’t have to anymore. It’s not just cream that rises to the top.

    Sadly, we live in an increasingly polarised, angry and authoritarian world. If the nurses all went on strike perhaps things could change for the better but, as you point out, on the whole they’re not really the striking type. Throwing more money at the NHS certainly isn’t going to solve the problem.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s