First aid for nurses

January 13th 2021

Yes, lockdown is a drag, whether you’re stuck at home or an essential worker.

But I heard something on the radio today that made me wonder if there’s something we can do to give us purpose and pass the time.

It was an interview with an intensive care nurse, who was exhausted, stressed, demoralised and no longer able to feel any pride in her work. She spoke of losing patients day after day, of not knowing any more what to say to patients who’ve seen other patients die, and asking if they’re going to die too.  Of watching her friends and colleagues feeling the same way, of being terrified of  taking the infection home to her family.

She said that on top of all this, she feels unvalued.  Some people’s attitude to the health service seems to have changed; they seem to think it’s just the job of doctors and nurses to deal with all that stress and sadness, and nothing to do with them.

On her way home, she sees people going about without masks or social distancing, getting together in groups, hugging each other, acting as if nothing is happening or they just don’t care.  She hasn’t the energy to challenge this behaviour anymore.  Her partner works for the NHS and feels the same.  It feels like nobody is supporting them anymore.

She told us that colleagues were staying in otherwise empty hotels at their own expense for fear of infecting their families, but then see people meeting friends, going to parties, and ignoring the restrictions.

She sounded totally shattered.

The next to speak was the head of the British Association of Critical Care Nurses. At the present time, she said, nurses in Critical Care Units were on average working on four patients at a time, when it should be just one. That’s a quadruple workload. Staff were beginning to hand in their notice due to burn out, tens of thousands of NHS staff are off isolating or off sick.  People seemed so busy complaining about how awful lockdown was for them that they’d stopped thinking or caring about the NHS.

After the interviews, messages from two people were read out: one was from a doctor who was isolating with covid symptoms. He was sick, exhausted and missing the family he’d not seen for months. His colleagues were working double shifts to cover for him and other sick staff, demoralised by the stressful life and not being able to save all the lives brought before them. He was furious with those members of the public who complained about how stressful it was for them, while not adhering to the rules, not bothering with masks or distancing, having parties or going to holiday homes.

When this is over, he said, he would be leaving the health service.

One small note of cheer crept in at the end. A woman had emailed in to say that all the members of her Zoom group had chipped in a tenner, and ordered pizzas for the nurses at their local hospital.

So come on, Huddersfield, how about it?  What can YOU do to support our hardworking healthcare professionals and hospital support staff?

Never mind clapping for carers (which makes all the people doing it feel warm and fuzzy). How about clubbing together to have meals and other goodies delivered?  Small tubes of hand cream, lip balm, fancy coffee sachets, quick grabbable snacks, anything that can make their day a bit brighter.

Of course, the number one thing we can all do to help is to stay at home, social distance, wear a mask and wash our hands.  

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