Dear Mr Johnson

Dear Mr Johnson,

I am sure I don't need to tell you about the challenges our nurses are facing every day of their working lives. They deal with life and death situations, while remaining calm under immense pressure, providing care for all those who cross their path. On second thoughts, maybe I do as your government certainly doesn't seem to be looking out for their wellbeing, so let me lay it out for you.

Between 2016 and 2017 20% more nurses left the register than joined it. 44% of these nurses did not leave because of retirement, they left because they could no longer cope with the intolerable pressure of their working conditions. The goodwill of nurses is being increasingly abused with longer hours, pay rises capped at 1% and, thanks to the marvellous idea of Brexit, fewer nurses in our hospitals.

Fewer nurses on the register means increased fees for those who remain on it. Yes, we have to pay every year to be allowed to care and these fees are constantly rising. Pay is already offensively low considering the work nurses do and this has led to more nurses needing to use food banks.

There has been a marked decrease in the wellbeing of nurses and, while mental health has become an important topic for the general population, it is largely ignored by employers according to the NMC.

When I think back to my training as an inexperienced student nurse, I dealt with extremely heavy issues with absolutely no guidance on how to process them and nobody to talk to. At the age of nineteen I witnessed a pregnant woman in her twenties be admitted to A&E with a pulmonary embolism. The team fought for her for as long as possible but tragically neither she or her baby could be saved. I can still feel the heavy, sombre mood of the ward that day. I was actually instructed by the senior nurse not to talk about it to anyone. We were expected to carry on working as if it were another ordinary day.

On another placement I was told by a mentally disturbed patient that he considered me small enough to fit into a suitcase. He decided he wanted to bury it with me inside in the garden and decorate my grave with Christmas lights. This was the same man who had pushed a pregnant woman down a flight of stairs and who also felt comfortable covering himself in his own faeces in the centre of town. His mind was dark and I found it difficult to know how to be around him. Again, I had nobody to talk to about this experience.

At the age of 22 I was subjected to a young man tossing himself off in front of my desk. I suppose now that would be considered sexual assault and, while the police took it very seriously, I had nobody in the workplace to discuss this distressing incident with.

Even more recently I have been left extremely vulnerable during home visits with one man welcoming me into his home wearing just a towel and another telling me that his "cock was sore"!

I left ward work long ago opting for general practice instead but over the last fifteen years that has become increasingly high--pressured and we often work with no breaks and an overload of patients. We're lucky if we get to go to the loo. Last year I decided to drastically reduce my work in this field and am now so lucky to predominantly be a school nurse. While I remain busy and deal with an array of issues, some very complex, I have been stunned by how well I am supported in a school compared to the NHS.

In addition to time constraints, limited or faulty equipment, long hours and degrading pay, nurses have an emotional load to bear. We are expected to listen to and solve every patient's problem and in some we really invest ourselves. Working in a school especially has really opened my eyes to inexplicably sad situations that I have no power to change. Truly caring for patients is a huge emotional burden. We don't forget them when we go home.

Nursing is hard. The strain and level of responsibility is hard. So hard that hundreds of nurses have taken their own lives in the last seven years. The suicide rate among nurses is 23% higher than the national average. This is absolutely unacceptable and you must urgently review how our nurses are being treated. They deserve mental health care, shorter shift patterns, regulated breaks and pay that respects their work.  If you don't care for them, they won't be able to care for you or your nation.


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