Last week symbolised the end of my nursing career (for now). On Friday I packed up my uniforms and laptop and walked away from 10 years of hard work and commitment. It was tough – it felt very strange walking out of the doors of the hospital and realising that I would not be back again. But it also felt liberating. All the stress, anxiety and worry that comes with being a ward manger just floated away. Suddenly the lives of patients and staff members was nothing to do with me. No more impossible targets, no more trying to cut costs whilst maintaining safety or trying to beg overworked nurses to please cover one more shift.
This last year has opened my eyes to the realities facing the NHS. As a nurse working directly with patients you don’t always understand why management makes the decisions it does. You believe that we are all working towards a unified goal of better patient care and services. And we are but the reality of the situation is that everything costs more than you think it should, and there are such finite resources that you can’t always have everything you need to get the job done. As a manager it can be somewhat soul destroying. On the one hand you have nurses and in my case parents demanding a higher standard of care, better nursing ratios and facilities; on the other senior management are asking for more cost.
Am I sad to leave behind the greatest challenge I have faced so far in my career? Yes and no. But having secured a fantastic opportunity in the private sector I could no longer justify the daily stress my job brought into my home life. Am I worried that I have sold my soul? Nope – the time has come to look after me and my own for while and if that comes with a rather large pay rise and some extra perks then all the better. Don’t get me wrong this new job is gonna be tough and there is loads to learn, but it’s exciting and I am looking forward to trying something totally different. Do I believe I can do it? You bet your ass I do!
So why am I telling you all about this? Well I am kind of hoping that I might get a bit more time now to get back to blogging. It’s been a while right? I know, I know, all those goals for a new blog that I set myself just fell apart. To be honest life just took over – well actually work took over. Why I thought I was going to juggle 2 kids, a full time 24/7 job and a blog is beyond me. Still here I am having another go so bear with me 🙂.
On the to achieve list is still my couch to 5k, currently I have the couch part down to a fine art. This was certainly the case when I had to do the skinny-Jean-wiggle this morning and actually ripped the bum of my jeans 😱. Whilst I have visited a lot of the amazing restaurants in Birmingham now, I have been very lax on the reviews so I am hoping to get some of those completed too. And the rest of the blog? Well I guess that will be the random musings of a ‘Just-about-Millenial’
Today I took the kids out to catch up with a few work colleagues, the one real positive to being a nurse and having children is that with a workforce predominantly comprising of women there are always a group of you off on maternity leave at the same time. Obviously this causes some severe issues for management when we go off in droves from the same ward, especially in specialist areas where skill mix is usually an ongoing battle. Although we all feel for managers in their day to day struggles (!) we enjoy nothing better than moaning about work issues when we all get together for a coffee! Unfortunately for the majority of us the time comes when we have to return to work and the reality of juggling impossible shift patterns with childcare starts to hit home.
Most hospitals no longer provide on site creches or nurseries – another cut back to NHS funding I presume. This leaves all the shift workers, not only nurses, in a difficult position. A few years back when the government in their infinite wisdom and thoughtfulness pushed NHS trusts into the idea that continuity of care improved the patient experience hospitals up and down the country moved to what we call in the profession long days and long nights, ie the 12 hour shift, or in non-professional terms all f’ing day or night. Many people find this model is an improvement; as for the majority this means working 3 shifts a week, but for those of us looking for childcare it is at best a nightmare and at worse friggin impossible.
As the babies crawl around and my crazy 4 year old dashes off and rounds up his peers in an almost Lord of the Flies type gang, talk turns to who is going back to work, who has cut their hours and the never ending discussion of why we can’t works set shifts. This is the other major issues with organising child care as a nurse, apart from finding someone or somewhere that will take your child from 6.30am – 9pm, your shifts change from week to week so you don’t always need the same days covered; and weekends? Well you can just go and forget about that. Every nurse I have ever known has always asked for a set rota when she returns to work but I can’t recall any manager agreeing to this – they quote the usual line of requiring flexibility within the service. Surely if everyone was asking for set days then doing the rota would be made easier as they would know exactly who was working which days?! Lets not even get started on the JOY that that is the Christmas rota… Next time someone says we need a 24/7 NHS I am going to stick a bauble in their nose for every Christmas I have worked! And childcare, now that really would be a Christmas miracle (mind you so would having the whole of Christmas off….)
Therefore most nurses are left to juggle childcare between family, partners and a couple of set days at nursery or with a childminder – but what happens when like us you don’t have family just down the road? Oh and to make matters worse you are both expected to work changing shift patterns of long days, nights and weekends? Well I can tell you that it is logistical madness and most months result in me rocking in a corner and muttering to myself. Favours are called in, shifts are swapped, sleep is usually severely lacking as one of us works days and one works nights, we often pass each other like ships in the night. Our use of childcare is usually so that one of us can grab a few hours kip before a shift. Now that our eldest child attends preschool it’s even worse, yes we get those precious 15 hours free every week but the times for school are even less helpful than private child care and for the first time ever we have to contend with school holidays! I dread the end of my maternity leave this time, juggling one child was a miracle, juggling two? I can’t even begin to imagine it….