I have held a child’s airways open when they couldn’t breathe, and I’ve sat with them and talked about their fears of dying. I have watched children die and held their parents’ hands through it. The 1 per cent pay rise doesn’t even cover the cost of the car parking charges we have to pay
I’m a paediatric nurse, and I have been a part of a team where many times we resuscitated a child about to die and managed to save them. I have held a child’s airway open and given them breaths when they were suddenly unable to breathe themselves. I have spotted crucial signs of deterioration and helped prevent further decline and I have sat with children talking about their fear of dying.
I have watched children die and I have held their parents’ hands through it.
We do not get a moment of reflection afterwards; I remember finding this incredibly strange when it first happened. I expected that after actively trying to save a child who tragically died, we would have a moment to breathe – but we don’t. We are straight back to work.
I have missed breaks, left late, sat with babies crying after my shift was over because their parents were not there, and have gone out of my way to make a hospital stay more pleasant for children and their families, sometimes by getting famous authors to write to them and send books.
I have taught other nurses and students, and above all I work with incredible nurses who have done the same and have always been happy and felt fortunate to be a part of every single experience.
As nurses, we spend the most time with patients out of any other profession within the NHS. It is down to us to check drug prescriptions, prepare and administer drugs, chase overworked doctors and care for patients and their families physically and emotionally. Despite all my training and responsibility, I am the lowest rank within nursing, as a band 5. I currently make about £5,000 a year less than a play specialist who works 7.30am-3.30pm on a ward.
Nursing requires more academic knowledge and skill than ever before. The idea that nurses simply wipe bottoms and do bed baths is outdated, as is the pay. Nurses are a force of intelligent, caring people, who have studied degrees and developed extensive knowledge within their field. People who become nurses have a choice in what career they pursue; nursing is not the only option. Nurses have been repeatedly recognised as the main work force of the NHS and yet we are not rewarded for this in our salary, particularly when there are so many other career options that pay more.
I recognise that within every society there are issues and obstacles which we must overcome together. However, among the chaos of all our problems, one that can no longer be ignored is the nursing crisis within the NHS, particularly in regards to our pay.
The cap is not the entire problem; the salary is too low in the first place and the cap merely adds salt to the wound. Our 1 per cent increase does not even cover the rise in car parking charges that staff at my hospital have to pay.
It’s important to emphasise that I did not go into nursing for the money, but I did not go in to nursing to be unappreciated and underpaid either. Giving up valuable time at Christmas with my family and friends throughout the years for £23,363, and experiencing what I can only describe as chronic fatigue, starts to seem like too big of a sacrifice even for the most rewarding experiences.
I have a second job with a nursing agency which pays almost four times what I get for a shift with the NHS. I do shifts with them on top of my full time job to make ends meet, but I get penalised by seniors on my unit for not picking up extra shifts with them when the NHS wards are busy, as they struggle to recruit new nurses. I spend my agency nights in the community watching a child sleep, in comparison to running myself into the ground at the hospital. It doesn’t make sense, and it needs to change.
I love looking after children and families in their darkest hours and supporting them through it, yet the sacrifices that we as nurses make for minimal pay and appreciation is demoralising and almost humiliating. It will pain me to leave patients’ bedsides, but ultimately I believe it will be better for my mental health and family life.