Friday, 13 April 2012

Why do nurses work so hard?

I've been thinking about my nursing friends this morning since reading on facebook that one of them was just embarking on a 14 hour shift.  I started wondering why do we do it?

Sometimes it's to earn more money because the pay is still not that good, sometimes it's because you feel guilty if you don't cover the ward - if you don't do the shift then someone else has to.  Sometimes it's because your life outside work is crap.  Sometimes it's because you love the work.  I remember doing long shifts when I was very young and hadn't been nursing long.  I did the long hours because I loved the work - just loved being at work - the adrenaline rush was like an addiction and you became completely engrossed in the lives of the patients, really believed you could make a difference to them.  I often wonder if young nurses today still feel like that.  It is so different nowadays.

When I went back to nursing on the wards a few years ago, after many years of working in the community, I expected to be able to spend time nursing people.  In other words - to spend time with my patients, listening to their needs, and doing my best to help them through their traumas - proper hands-on nursing in other words.  This was not what my experience turned out to be however.  I spent most of my time in the office - writing up risk assessments, asking patients questions and ticking them off on a computer screen - organising the obs rota - working out which patients needed escorts to go out that day and which ones couldn't go out as we didn't have enough staff to escort them all.  Sometimes this became very frustrating as the patients wanted to go out more often than we had staff available.  We were encouraged to spend one-to-one time with patients - to work to their care plans - but often this was difficult to do and if you did spend quality time with the patient then there was all the recording to be done.  This is now computerised.  Now that in itself caused a lot of stress to staff who were not computer literate.  If you couldn't access a computer then you couldn't write notes.  Simple as that.  Unless you wrote them out in longhand and asked one of the secretaries to enter it for you.

Eventually, I left and started working for an agency.  I worked in the same setting as before - but as I was an agency nurse I was unable to use the computer system at all.  This meant that everything I did at work had to be written out in long-hand and passed on to a secretary.

Sometimes I hanker after going back to working in the field but so wish that it was easier just to be a hands-on nurse again.

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