Jane Bates: My wish for a life without emotional blackmail

Unfair pressure to do extra work is the bane of a nurse’s life, says Jane Bates

Unfair pressure to do extra work is the bane of a nurse’s life, says Jane Bates

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Better pay, better weather, better food. This is what a hospital in Dusseldorf is offering to lure Polish nurses away from Britain after Brexit. I wonder if they would take a superannuated British nurse with a GCSE in German? No, I thought not.

What would entice me away from these shores, if I were footloose and fancy-free? Better pay, of course. Sunshine too. But I would want more than that – I would need a promise that there would be no emotional blackmail. This low form of coercion is the bane of a nurse’s life.

Emotional blackmail is defined as a way of using fear, obligation and guilt to control another person. Ring any bells? You know how it is. ‘If you can’t stay on after your shift and cover the next, we will have to cancel the operating list/a junior person will be left in charge/your patients – note the personal possessive – will suffer.’

‘Your professional conscience beats you to a pulp’

Never mind if you have promised your child you will be home before bedtime, or you have planned to take your sick auntie to the doctor’s. Never mind if you have a thundering headache and spots before your eyes because you are exhausted.

Your professional conscience beats you to a pulp and you give in, having to face the consequences of this craven capitulation when you next see your family. Half the time we are emotionally blackmailing ourselves, caught in a tug of war between conflicting duties. No wonder nurses have a tendency towards poor mental health.

The greatest victim of this blackmail is ultimately the public, because as we know it is the lack of a work-life balance that causes many of our colleagues to leave. It is ingrained, though, in the way the NHS functions.

Nursing without emotional blackmail? It will never happen. Not even Dusseldorf could promise that.

Jane Bates is an ophthalmic nurse in Hampshire



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