At the anniversary of the first known cases of COVID-19 in the UK, it is natural that we reflect on the toughest year in healthcare for a century. We have tragically lost friends, loved ones and colleagues. We have encountered fear of the unknown (and the known), saw life as we knew it turned upside down, and remain unsure whether ‘normal’ will ever return. Endoscopy and GI specialist nursing services have been closed or reconfigured. We’ve had to cope with the stress and uncertainty of being redeployed to unfamiliar clinical territories, whilst others had to learn how to work remotely or consult with patients virtually. We saw the inequality of BAME HCPs and communities disproportionately affected by COVID-19. We’ve witnessed pain and fear, death and dying in a magnitude we would not have thought possible when we started our careers in nursing, or indeed as citizens, and as humans.
We began the pandemic already with circa 40,000 unfilled NHS nursing posts. A RCN membership survey last summer found that 36% of nurses were considering leaving the profession. Work pressure is one of the top reasons nurses cite for leaving the register.
As nursing is a patient safety critical profession, it is crucial that experienced nursing staff are retained. Therefore, as we exit the pandemic, it is imperative that staff mental health and well-being is prioritised in service recovery strategies. Pressure will be high to catch up on waiting lists and delayed appointments but time must be taken to take time off, rest and recuperate, and acknowledge the physical and mental impact of such a health crisis. If we do not care for the carers, the carers will be unable to care for our patients.
The RCN has a range of resources to support your well-being.