In London, newly qualified nurses often struggle to manage financially, many take second jobs or extra hours to make ends meet. Nursing isn’t an easy profession, the hours are long and the demands are great. I’m a respiratory nurse consultant in a hospital in London, caring for people living with lung conditions. Winter is the most challenging time of year for me.
A recent report from the British Lung Foundation found that there are almost 80 per cent more respiratory admissions in the winter months than in the warmer spring months. Patients turn up to emergency departments in record numbers because they struggle to manage their condition at home. This leaves respiratory nurses at the heart of winter pressures. The strain on beds means that we try to care for patients in their own homes wherever possible. Caring for patients who are frightened about struggling to breathe during the cold snap can take its toll.
What concerns me is to see that along with one-in-ten nurses leaving the profession, many are now choosing not to join it. More than 33,000 nurses left the profession last year, piling pressure on understaffed hospitals and community services. The figures represent a rise of 20 per cent since 2012-13 meaning there are now more leavers than joiners.
There are financial constraints; the hours are long and the pay is low. Constant changes in how the NHS is expected to manage services can leave many nurses at breaking point. In London, newly qualified nurses often struggle to manage financially, many take second jobs or extra hours to make ends meet.
Solutions are needed, but it is hard to know where to start. One of the main things would be to ensure there was funding and time for extra training. We also need to see the return of the nursing bursary and a pay increase is vital in retaining nurses. I lead a team now and the patient to staff ratio needs to be considered – I see firsthand the pressures being understaffed brings to nurses.
Recognising nurses in the same way other professions such as teaching are seen would make us feel more valued. People often call nursing a “vocation”. For many of us it is just that. People need to see the appeal of nursing as a career. We need to hear the positive stories, not just the negative ones.
I dearly hope solutions can be found to retain and develop nurses. We are vital to the health service. As a child, nursing was all I ever wanted to do. I remember being fascinated with bandaging and making people feel better. I have never regretted becoming a nurse, not for one second – and I wish the Government would recognize that nurses like me want to stay in the profession, and help us do just that.
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