Recently a close family member of mine was admitted into hospital where they resided for over two weeks. I frequently visited and at one point even stayed the night next to my relative. It was across the whole period they were in hospital, especially during the night stay, where I realised we do not deserve our nurses. I saw the extent to which these overworked mothers of our NHS went to maintain patient comfort and I felt shameful at the lack of recognition they get.
Overworked and undervalued are words I would use to accurately describe how our nurses are treated. Average staffing in the NHS equates to each nurse being responsible for nine patients each. This is higher, 11, in elderly care, but honestly when are statistics like this always perfect? In reality, nurses are being pushed to take care of 10-12 patients in medical wards and even more in elderly care wards. Now these numbers might not hold so much weight to you if you don't know what nursing entails, but the National Institute of Clinical Excellence states a recommendation of no greater than eight patients per nurse. Eight! That's the maximum recommendation too! In fact 40% relayed to the Royal College of Nursing that they are actually dealing with a greater number of patients than this each. But hey they get paid right? This is their job to look after patients right? Yes but they are being forced to sacrifice their own basic needs for the wellbeing of their patients and this should not happen. According to my research, the general shift pattern for a Registered Nurse is lots of 12-hour shifts a week. Now think about these Nurses working a 12-hour shift and having, say, 11 patients to attend to. It's really meant to be an 11-hour shift with an unpaid hour break obligated to them for their own basic needs of eating and resting, but the reality is that they'll utilise a fraction of this hour or even straight up work through it entirely. More patients increase their workload and so these nurses are selflessly sacrificing their own hard earned leisure break for the comfort of others.
Let's look at this clearly and remember what 'taking care' of patients actually consists of too. As an example, imagine these 11 patients under a nurse's responsibility. On this particular day, eight need help being washed, five have three different sets of medication to be administered at different times of the day at different doses, three have four different types and two have to be monitored constantly as a precaution to the type of medicine they take. Out of the 11, seven are virtually bed ridden as standing and walking independently is almost impossible with their condition. And the bowel movements of these patients don't work around the schedule of the nurse, rather the nurse must assist these patients whenever they need to relieve themselves. Now I don't know about you, but when I was frequenting the hospital and seeing these nurses attending to patients as soon as they informed them of their want to pass fluids or solids, I thought to myself that I could never do what they do. Not in a proud sense but in a comfort sense. I would find it extremely difficult to be forced to enter the privacy of these patients and assist them first hand every time they had to relieve themselves. Oh I almost forgot, two patients have to go every half an hour because of a very weak bladder, and if they can't get help ASAP then bedding and clothes must be changed immediately. These nurses don't have a perfect schedule that most of us have when we go to work. We're told when our shift starts and when break time comes, we stop whatever we're doing and only return after the 15 minutes is over and do the same for lunch where we take the full 30 minutes to ourselves. Nurses can't do that. A nurse won't stop halfway through changing a patients bedding and tell them to wait until their break is over to finish it off. They'll finish it there and then and before they can even think about what time they'll take their break, another patient has buzzed in and needs immediate attention. Oh wait, a patient two bays down needs to have their daily injection and can't have their lunch unless it's taken on time. BEEP! There goes the patient you just changed who's uncontrollably soiled themselves and needs to be cleaned and changed again. This time they'll request they be washed fully too.
It may have been hard to track whilst reading that and so it should be. A mere hypothetical summary of what nurses would generally face during a shift is nothing compared to the actual work these heroes put in. Moreover the lives of patients are in their hands. Stress is undoubtedly on top of most and this can be very unhealthy for ones mental and physical state. From what may begin as a passionate career to assist and help those less able, for these nurses can become a daily nightmare and misery. It's paramount that these amazing humans get the support they need both during work and outside. They truly are the unsung heroes of our beautiful NHS system and need to be protected at all costs.