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I’ve never treated anybody famous. But then, as a nurse, you treat everybody the same – without fear or favour.
Jenny McGee might have looked after Boris Johnson when he was gravely ill with Covid-19, but that’s the only difference I can see between her and nearly every nurse I know. Do your job, give your all, come back again tomorrow. Until you can’t.
The past 14 months have seen highs and lows – personally and professionally – that nobody could have prepared for. But perhaps the greatest surprise of all came one full year into the pandemic.
After so many rounds of applause, the warmest of words and the highest of accolades, McGee’s famous patient showed it had all been hollow. A decade of real-terms pay cuts – worth thousands of pounds – are to be followed by yet another.
We’d been lulled into believing that, at long last, we were going to get the full recognition our work deserves. The derisory 1% pay rise the government offered nurses in March shows how wrong we were. McGee has now quit her job over the government’s poor treatment of healthcare workers.
Working as a nurse requires a certain sense of humour but not a single nurse or NHS worker I know had anything but personal anguish and professional despair on display that day.
We are graduates. We run clinics and services. We are the difference between life and death.
But many nurses and care workers are now leaving their jobs. Why? McGee has pulled back the curtain on behalf of so many of us.
When you see the difference you make to the lives of countless individuals and their families, the reward is immense. But I cannot spend that at the supermarket. And the memory of that feeling is harder to hold on to when each understaffed shift feels more brutal than the last.
In January last year, we could see a crisis brewing with coronavirus. We had been watching what was happening in China, and then Italy, and we were concerned about what was coming our way.
Some of us were used to working in intensive care but even those who had worked with a ward full of patients needing critical care weren’t prepared for the wave that hit us. We pulled together as a team. People were redeployed from other areas and we did everything we could for each of our patients. But where was the PPE to keep us safe?
My colleagues started to fall ill, and one even lost their life to the virus. When your colleague becomes your patient, everybody fears they could be next.
How does it feel now? Thankfully, the wards are starting to empty and the figures are improving. But we are running on empty. A debt of gratitude is owed, not just to nursing colleagues but to so many in healthcare and other key workers.
The prime minister seems to have fundamentally misunderstood what has happened over the past year. Giving NHS staff a proper pay rise isn’t a luxury but a necessity. It wouldn’t stop all those intent on leaving – but I guarantee that, with the flick of a Treasury pen, nurses like me would feel infinitely more valued. After a day on your feet, there isn’t much that puts a spring in your step, but a decent pay rise would make all the difference.
My night shift starts in a few hours. By the time the politicians nod off, I’ll be keeping the lights on with thousands of others around the country. When the crisis arrived, we more than rose to the challenge. The eyes of healthcare workers are on the government now. It is your turn.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Nurses know exactly why Boris Johnson’s nurse quit – we are running on empty | Anonymous