At what point is a qualified nurse – who entered the NHS expecting long hours and low pay – pushed so far that they can no longer carry on? For Stacey, a 27-year-old nurse from Liverpool, it was when she had become so broken that she felt she had lost every one of the “five Cs” that are instilled in nurses during their training: commitment, conscience, competence, compassion, and confidence.
Stacey worked in A&E for five years. When she started, there were 20 nurses on the emergency ward; by the time she left last month, there were 11. Meanwhile, there has been a dramatic increase in patients going to A&E: a rise of 400,000 in a decade. Stacey, like many other nurses across the country, felt she had reached breaking point.
“With A&E, you never know what is coming through the door,” she says. “It has to be very organised. We had three wards – majors, minors and observation – and each is supposed to have at least two nurses. But when I left, we were so stretched that there was often only one. There’s a reason you need at least two.”
She thinks back to her most stressful nights, on the observation ward, which admits patients suffering from problems such as overdoses or brain injuries, who are then observed over 24 hours.
“It was impossible to keep my eye on everyone, and there were times when someone would rapidly deteriorate and I would be too busy with other patients,” she says. On really busy nights, the observation ward became a “dumping ground” for patients with complex medical problems who could not get a bed anywhere else. “It was really tough. There were cases where patients were just put there, and I hadn’t been trained to deal with their problems.
Full story in The Guardian 25 June 2016