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Voices from nurses’ picket line: pressures driving us closer to quitting

Many nurses say they struggle to cope amid long shifts without a break and appalling pay, as resilience and even feeling of solidarity erodes
Strikers at St George's Hospital in London

Many nurses say they struggle to cope amid long shifts without a break and appalling pay, as resilience and even feeling of solidarity erodes

‘I’m closer to quitting that I ever have been in my career.’

Those are the stark words from a nurse on a picket line in south London today.

Critical care nurse Natasha Trenchard-Turner told Nursing Standard that nurses should not have to put up with long shifts without a break or appalling pay, but that is the situation many are faced with every day.

Many nurses say they struggle to cope amid long shifts without a break and appalling pay, as resilience and even feeling of solidarity erodes

Strikers at St George's Hospital in London
Strikers at St George's Hospital in London Picture: Andrea Downey

‘I’m closer to quitting that I ever have been in my career.’

Those are the stark words from a nurse on a picket line in south London today.

Critical care nurse Natasha Trenchard-Turner told Nursing Standard that nurses should not have to put up with long shifts without a break or appalling pay, but that is the situation many are faced with every day.

Speaking on the picket line outside St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust she said many nurses simply do not have capacity to continue doing the job.

‘I love being a nurse, it is what I’ve always wanted to do, but at the moment I’m not enjoying it and a lot of that is because we can’t deliver the quality of care we want to,’ she said.

Nurses say strike is about saving NHS, as poor pay and conditions hit recruitment and retention

St George's Hospital in London
Picture: Andrea Downey

‘My staff are not getting breaks, they are so stressed, they are quitting. I have problems with retention and it’s horrible not being able to keep people loving the job they wanted to do.

‘Even though being a nurse is who I am I still want to be valued and respected, and I want my staff to be valued and respected.’

Ms Trenchard-Turner echoed concerns of her colleagues around the country, that this strike is about saving the NHS as poor pay and working conditions cause a crippling recruitment and retention problem. She fears that without a change in direction the NHS is dangerously close to being lost completely.

‘There’s a reliance on the goodwill of staff, but that goodwill is over and that is why we’re out striking. It is not over because we can’t be bothered, it’s because our staff can’t afford to continue. I don’t just mean money-wise, I mean well-being-wise. It is really badly affecting the well-being of all of our staff.’

Battle to keep up nurses’ resilience and morale

The situation has become so intolerable that one member of staff recently took his own life, Nursing Standard was told.

Practice educator Kathy Dalley described the position nurses are in as ‘unremittingly grim’. Speaking on the picket line her emotion was visible as the told of the effects it is having on herself and colleagues.

‘People are leaving in droves and we’re not replacing them, it’s so tough. That’s the crux of why we’re here.

‘It’s just unremittingly grim. Every bit of hope gets sucked out every time something awful happens. It’s a huge battle to keep people’s resilience and morale up because there’s so few ways of doing that.’

Picture: Andrea Downey

Solidarity with nursing colleagues is also being eroded

The thing the keeps most nurses going during each shift is slowly being eroded: solidarity with colleagues. Nurses spoke of how a quick ‘hello’ or a hug with exhausted colleagues during shifts often kept them going, but as more of their friends leave the NHS it becomes harder to keep spirits high.

Alongside this there is the cost of living crisis to contend with. Practice educator Julia Brown is on a part-time contract and is faced with the challenge of needing more money to pay bills but wanting to stay part-time to spend time with her daughter.

‘I look after my husband and my child and I don’t have enough pay to be able to do that and balance my work-life so I can also see my little girl,’ she said.

‘It is really tough because I need to be able to do all of my work, support all of the nurses around me, but also make sure my family see me.’


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