One of my favourite moto’s has always been Find the circumstance that best suit you and if you cant find them, create them. I genuinely believe that as individuals we are capable of anything IF we find the right circumstances. If we settle, we become less, we shrivel, we deflate.
Because of this belief system I have managed to re-enter education and find my way to nursing. Nursing in fact found me. My degree taught me gold standards, theory and instilled ethics in me that were so close to my own moral code I felt like I’d written them myself. It was never a question that the NHS was under pressure, I was lectured in and embraced the politics, I became passionate and involved , I knew what I was getting into.
As a student however, you’re protected and held up. You’re praised and thanked regularly. You’re embraced and encouraged. I had been told to expect this to shift as I became a newly qualified nurse but the learning curve has been steep. The reality being that once your initial period of support in a new role is withdrawn and you take a case load, you’re just another nurse. A nurse who is given a case load to manage and put under pressure to absorb the lack of resource and accept it.
My reality and experience has been that the NHS is a machine that needs more than I can give. No matter how much effort I put in, I’ve never been led to feel like its enough. I’ve been left in a constant spiral of guilt… I should be capable of more… I should be more productive… that it must be my own shortcoming alone responsible for the stress I am feeling.
I’ve felt like this of course because I care about what I do. Nursing was sold to me as being all about my patients, that is why I chose it. I feel however that my priority on a daily basis is to make room for the next arrival before I’ve discharged the person in my care. There are some rare days when this is not the case however, “Winter pressures” a phrase I have come to loath, mean that an empty bed and the movement of people are high priority.
We know why, its quite simple. We have more patients than we are able to facilitate and not enough healthcare professionals to care for them . Due to the deficit, the work force become unwell themselves or /and leave. We don’t pay nurses enough so they are forced to work extra shifts at inflated rates, rates that if they were standard, would attract more permanent staff and allow better work life balance by removing the need to work extra shifts. Instead the NHS fills holes with bank staff and the problem continues go round in circles. I knew all this. I know all this. Anyone with a foot in the door of the NHS knows this.
The reality check for me recently has been that I can’t fix it alone. I can jump up and down and shout my concerns from the roof tops, but this is seldom appreciated when everyone’s aim is to just get through the day and hopefully the winter. Once you’ve stopped being compliant and accepting of the situation, the problem is presented back to you as your own . Understandably, the management structure is one that is defensive of the action it takes to ‘just get by’ and passes down the pressure to achieve to the ground level work force. No other option is available other than to achieve, this is communicated in every email you receive from the trust.
So…with a heavy heart, I’m leaving the NHS. My NHS. The institute that I have given everything that I have to over the last five years. My rational being that if this unhealthy relationship that I’ve formed were in fact between two people, I would have left them a long time ago. Relationships are about reciprocity. If one party takes and never gives, its destined not to last. I feel like I have to leave now before my self esteem is completely lost. Its been the hardest decision I have ever made and its a personal one. I’ve had to do so, not through selfishness but for self care. For the last five years my life had been all about nursing, I’m ashamed to say sometimes at the expense of my personal life and family. Today that changes.
I’m moving into the private sector in search of work life balance and to be paid what I feel is reasonable, for the level of skill and responsibility that is required. Because I value myself and I value my profession.
I’ve also made myself a promise. This year I will finally write my book. A few years ago I began to write a children’s novel. This year I will finish it. It’s in it’s infancy, but I have started to research publishers. I’m excited. To be an author would be a dream. So I’m creating my own circumstances. Life is fragile, we only live once. As always I am relying on my own strength and tenacity to keep moving forward.
Writing this is not a slight on any individual in any way and what is true for me may not be an opinion shared by every nurse. I have decided to air this in a public forum because I am not alone in how I feel and sometimes we have to be brave enough to admit ‘this is not working’. I made a promise from day one that I would always speak up. I have. My endless admiration goes to those who continue to contribute to the NHS everyday despite the sacrifice. I applaud each and every one of you.
I can not bare to end this without saying thank you to the people that have made nursing in the NHS so amazing. I’ve laughed, so much . I’ve loved so much. I’ve shared incredible moments with so many people, colleagues and now a few good friends. The biggest thank you of course goes to my patients. Each and everyone of whom I have shared words of support and encouragement with during hard times and intimate procedures. They are what my heart has beat for. They are why its been worth it. They alone are why I am a nurse.
And so, to pastures new…
Love and light
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