'I worry about things I haven't finished. And things I haven't even started'

 Kelly Hitchcock 28 Nov 2019

I have just finished yet another week working in a short-staffed team. With four nurses long-term sick, three on sickness leave, one on annual leave and two unfilled posts, our team of 14 nurses finds itself reduced to just four.

This would be hard to deal with if it were an exception to the rule, but it has been more than a year since we were fully staffed.

It’s the impact of chronic short-staffing that’s on my mind. The constant ‘fire-fighting’. The only ever being able to deal with the most immediate problem. The never being able to talk to patients properly, listen to them, maybe prevent a crisis instead of merely reacting to one.

Cancelling training again. Working late to finish paper work. Worrying about things you didn’t get time to finish and things you didn’t get time to start. Questioning whether you’re starting to feel less compassionate. 

Feeling fatigued, then feeling run-down, then becoming unwell yourself. Believing that you cannot take time off because it will pile even more pressure on to your already overstretched colleagues.

'Managers are doing their best'

In some ways, it is no-one’s fault. Or, rather, no-one’s fault who is doing something to fix the problem. 

My manager and their managers are doing their best. They have repeatedly advertised posts without a single candidate coming to interview. They have tried to fill gaps with bank or agency staff, but there are not enough nurses with the right training and experience. The few who do fit the bill choose less rural, more accessible places than where my team work.

The story of 43,000 nurse vacancies and its alarming impact needs to be told – and it must be heard and acted upon by the next Government. 

The story of falling student nurse applications since the NHS bursary was recklessly abolished; the story of EU nurses leaving or choosing not to come here since the 2016 referendum; the story of experienced nurses leaving - some with agonising reluctance, others with palpable relief - as the rewards no longer match the demands. 

I urge you to sign the RCN’s safe staffing petition and make your vote count for nursing, for you, for us, on General Election day.

Kelly Hitchcock

Kelly Hitchcock

Community Psychiatric Nurse and RCN Derbyshire Branch committee member

Kelly is a Community Psychiatric Nurse in Derbyshire and a member of the RCN Derbyshire Branch committee. As a nursing student at the University of Derby, she was the joint winner of the Outstanding Contribution to Student Affairs category in the 2018 Student Nursing Times Awards and has served on the RCN's national Students' Committee.

Page last updated - 27/04/2020