Not because of the 13 hour days. The night shifts and the weekends. The birthdays and holidays I miss with my friends and family because I’m looking after your friends or family. Not because of the blood, the bedpans, or our bursting bladders. Not because of the abuse we endure or the heartache we witness.
Despite these challenges and sacrifices, I love my job. More than that, I am passionate about it. I consider it a privilege.
Making sure your grandma is comfortable, clean and dry is not only what I consider to be one of the most important aspects of my role but my favourite part of the day. As is bed bathing your dad before I help to feed him. Reassuring your five-year-old when they are scared. Or when I just sit with your mum and hold her hand.
I will vote to strike because we were short-staffed again today and every other day for as many shifts as I can remember. Because more beds have had to be closed due to staff shortages.
So, your relative will spend another night in the emergency department. And there is nowhere for the next ambulance to offload. Or your grandad will lie on a hospital trolley in a corridor for hours with no privacy or dignity. Your sister with breast cancer will spend the whole night sitting in a chair. Your friend experiencing a mental health crisis is unable to get the help he needs or deserves, so security will be called instead.
I will vote to strike because, despite my best efforts, the standard and safety of all the care I provide will be compromised. Putting my professional registration at risk. Worse - putting your loved ones at risk. We carry the weight of that on our shoulders. We wake in the middle of the night worrying about it. We cry about it.
I will vote to strike because, even though we turn up to work every day regardless of these conditions to sustain our health service and fight for your families, it comes at a cost to our own physical and mental health.
Over three hundred of our colleagues across the UK have died by suicide in recent years. Two have died driving home from work in the last couple of weeks.
And because, while many of the issues I’ve highlighted are UK-wide, as is the gross underfunding and exploitation of the nursing workforce, we in Northern Ireland are not even paid the same as the rest of the country. This results in further staff shortages and the inability to recruit and retain a future workforce.
I will vote to strike because nursing in Northern Ireland is in crisis. We’ve tried talking but people aren’t listening. It is time for action. Please support us. You need us and we need you.
RCN member, Northern Ireland