Without us the system would cease to exist

 Beckie Luford 8 Mar 2019

I don't usually take to Facebook to air opinions on current issues, as I understand most of the readers are an inappropriate platform - most of which, understandably, are helpless to make change or lose interest and stop reading before the end. Everyone does it, no judgments made. So if you don't want to hear a moderately long account of a student nurse in the National Health Service today, it's OK to keep scrolling.

I write this in response to a rise in posts from my university colleagues, most of which relate to the stress they have been under recently. They're juggling university deadlines, job applications, placement (for those who don't know, this alone consists of 12.5 hour weekdays, weekend and night shifts - and that is deducting travel time and working off the assumption you're lucky enough to leave on time), financially supporting yourself and in some cases, the care of your own children at home.

Those students/professionals are genuine superhumans and I applaud you. This is of course all unpaid and on top of staying fit, keeping the house clean and food prepping for your shifts. As well as enduring the inevitable 'Oh, you're so boring' from those whom you have let down on social events because the rare early night sounds so much more pleasurable. Fact is, I know more student nurses receiving counselling than those who are not.

It is safe to say that the last two and a half years have been the hardest of my life. Before attending uni, a lot of us nursing students viewed ourselves as strong individuals who were ready to make a contribution to changing/fixing/improving the NHS. Currently however, I am beginning to lose track of the number of occasions I have sat and genuinely considered throwing in the towel. The long hours, the unfamiliar environments, the claustrophobia felt in a big city, the isolation of hospital wards, the nature of a career that can consist of telling children that their parent has passed away and they didn't make it in time, can all become a little bit too much. It should be recognised that this is coming from someone who has an amazing support system, no dependents at home to worry about and whilst I don't eat lunch at the Ritz, I luckily do not have the severe financial stresses that those with mortgages and debts have to add to their list of worries. If someone in my circumstances can't hack it, what are the chances for those who aren't?

Despite what I say in the hours following a stressful shift, I could not see myself in any other profession and the word proud doesn't begin to cover what I feel about the professionals that surround me daily. Every health care and medical professional deserves a medal and more for what they do. The NHS requires money to function, but without the individuals you see around you - whether they're the surgeon wearing scrubs, the nurse with their stripes, a housekeeper taking your plate, a healthcare taking your blood pressure, a dietitian or physio asking you questions - the system would cease to exist.

So: to the pregnant nurse refusing to take a break because patients need a bedpan; to the doctor telling a wife that her husband of 60 years won't be driving home with her; to the surgeon who has just worked two consecutive shifts with no break and isn't going to make it home for dinner; to the student nurse who is attempting to cross every hurdle during their degree, just to end up facing a million more once qualified, on what can only be classed as absolutely sh*t pay - I really really hope that someone is making you the perfect brew when you arrive home. All I ask is that those who know an NHS worker or any medical professional, appreciate the day they may have had and pop on the kettle or open a bottle of wine. I am certain they will need at least one of them.

The standards for student nurses are ultimately not decided by the uni, the placement or the lecturer. It is the failings of a much wider source that has continued for decades, with decisions being made by those in the capital who refuse to take further insights into the accounts from the people who are suffering at the hands of those decisions 24 hours a day. And in all honesty, I can't see it changing anytime soon, so whenever you see a chance to get involved with events, join a parade or even sign a petition, please take a second to do so if possible.

Quick add-on note - for a far more genius, funny and insightful perspective of an NHS worker, I'd recommend reading Adam Kay's "This is Going to Hurt". If you've ever worked in health care, I can assure you will either cry or cry with laughter.

Beckie Luford

Beckie Luford


Beckie is a student member of the RCN whose family home is in Devon. She is currently studying adult nursing at the University of Leeds.

Page last updated - 09/08/2019