Nurses deserve a pay rise fit for ‘heroes’

Praise is welcome, but it’s time the profession secured a different kind of recognition

NHS superheroes: street art in Waterloo, London Picture: PA

The ‘NHS heroes’ label given to nurses and other healthcare staff by some sections of the media has been met with much derision from the profession.

It may be well-meaning, but nurses don‘t want plaudits, they want the protection that allows them to get on with their highly skilled jobs.

Heroic view of nurses deflects from reality

Far from receiving the recognition that should follow from this legendary status, many nurses – and doctors too – have felt ignored or forgotten by those in power during the COVID-19 crisis.

Supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) may have improved, but no health or social care workers will forget the unnecessary risk to their lives caused by shortages. We are yet to learn what impact these shortages had on the number of deaths of nursing and other colleagues or why the lives of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) staff are in greater jeopardy.

Those working in the independent sector – in nursing homes and hospices – also endured weeks of being roundly ignored, with staff and patients going untested for the virus.

Nurses go to work, not to war

Unsurprisingly, nurses on social media have expressed concerns about the war narrative and the associations of infallibility that go along with the ‘hero’ moniker.

Nurses go to work, not war. Losing their own lives isn’t normally a risk they face, or should have to.

Sadly, where wartime similarities can be drawn is over the mental health impact on individuals.

A study led by the RCN Research Society and including five universities has highlighted the numbers of nurses experiencing severe or extremely severe anxiety, stress or depression during the pandemic. Further work is being done by the group to understand why many aren't seeking help.

At Nursing Standard, we’re also trying to provide support to you with the many articles on stress reduction and realistic well-being tips offered free as part of our COVID-19 resource centre.

The profession is due a pay rise fit for heroes

Whatever your opinion on the hero tag, nurses have been ‘seen’ by the wider world.

The government should take the bold, and dare I say heroic, step of acknowledging nurses’ value.

It must invest in the future of this vital profession – and that includes a decent pay rise – because that’s the recognition it deserves.

View our COVID-19 resources centre 

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