opinion

'Nurses are struggling right now. Here's exactly what we want you to know.'

Being a nurse  is the most fantastic job in the world, but I need to be honest.

Nurses are nurses because they love their job. 

Even with the shifts and the exhaustion and the bodily fluids (trust me, everyone has one that is their kryptonite, for me, it's sputum). 

Watch: Things nurses never say. Post continues below.


Video via Mamamia

The night duty and the moments that have you thinking, "what the f**k" you do the job because you love it. 

You thrive on the energy, the laughs, and the reward of seeing a patient get better. You work for the moments where you learn, where a patient tells you their incredible life story. 

Nurses don't do it for the money or the bonuses. 

We don't get fancy lunches or corporate cards; we work all hours and on public holidays. 

I've celebrated Christmas with cricket in the hallway of the ward, seen fireworks crack over the city for New Year and been at work as the Easter Bunny's popped out their last eggs. 

We give our patients our hearts. A shift isn't complete without a laugh or the proverbial hitting the fan somehow. 

We'll give out meds for a Sister in need, help with washes and turns, and run if we see someone getting up who shouldn't be. We're terrible at looking after ourselves but thrive on looking after others. 

A nurse, especially since COVID, will never work a typical week. Ever. No matter the shifts we are rostered for, every single one will be different. 

Often on the day or maybe the day before, sometimes a few hours earlier. 

Short notice is the usual and everyone else we love, care about and want to spend time with has to fit in with the changes. 

We don't often say no because the guilt is too much, and it's always sold as "just one shift, please!". 

We don't want to leave our friends short-staffed in a struggle; knowing you're on with your favourites is enough to say "yes". 

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Knowing you can get a coffee together makes the deal even sweeter. That's what we tell ourselves. 

We make it ok in our brains by saying, "think of the money". We tell our kids it's ok by making promises for another day. Shift work means flexibility, but that means you're giving that to your facility before yourself.  

One shift will never be the same as the next. 

No matter how well you have things planned out on your handover sheet, you'll need to run something to pathology, take someone for an urgent scan, or someone might fall.

Two people will call in sick, and you'll be asked to do a double. 

You'll hang three different antibiotics for three other patients who are all due simultaneously while ensuring another has a shower before an assessment.

There will be changes to medications; someone will spill water all over their bed just after you've made it. 

The ward will run out of towels before you start washing, and they won't be delivered until just before lunch. 

Your IV pump will beep as soon as you sit down to chart. You'll lose your pen. You will forget what you went to the storeroom for. Rinse and repeat. Daily. 

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Did I tell you we really do love our job? 

On a more serious note, though, the theme for International Nurses Day is Nurses: A Voice To Lead. Please take what I am about to say on board. 

We lead with humour and kindness, empathy and listening skills. 

We lead with the ability to calm and lift, think beyond the box and create magic from minimal resources. 

Our voices are often burdened by hospital protocols, management and leaders who don't want to listen, but we keep shouting.

We lead by advocating for our patients, pushing for better care, and pushing for the right person to listen. 

Our voices have been louder during COVID. We've pushed for safer staffing and better PPE, and we've seen nurses in Aged Care demand safer workplaces. 

We are exhausted, understaffed, and sick of covering our faces with masks and shields all day, every day. We are tired of the expectations from management that, 'it will be ok, they will just have to deal with it" when there is no staff to be found.

Saying that doesn't magically make it ok, no matter how you frame it.

We need the government to listen when we say that patient-to-staff ratios are inadequate. 

As patients become older, their needs are more complex and require more time. 

What worked 10 years ago is starting to fall apart now. 

We see more 90 – 100+-year-olds than ever before. We love our job; we adore our patients and laugh and pull through the wildest shifts. 

On this International Nurses Day, though, we need change. 

We need more staff before we drown. 

We need management to understand the complexities of our patients. Stop throwing paperwork at us to tick your KPI boxes. Stop staffing us according to numbers, not acuity – LISTEN to the staff on the floor about the patient that takes an hour to wash with two nurses. 

We are staffed perfectly if we have the time to wash and dry a patient's hair, file their nails, change their flower water, and take them for multiple walks. 

Don't take this as a signal to take someone off the shift. 

Please know our voices; our work can only lead with your support, with non-performative changes. Otherwise, it's just another token saying on another token day.

Feature Image: Instagram / @nurse.merowyn

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