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Opinion

The Life & Times of a Theatre Nurse

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Theatre Nurse
Pixabay

I am fortunate enough to have been doing this job for many many years, and as you will read, it’s a little bit more than watching the doctor.

I, may be…

I, may be the first person to wish you good morning, to ask if you have your stockings on, to confirm if you may be pregnant or whether your teeth are wobbly, capped or crowned. I, may be the first person you feel you can voice your fears too…

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I, may be your hand-holder as you drift off to sleep, offer gentle words of reassurance as you wonder if you will wake up, or distract you while needles are inserted in various parts of your body. I, may be the one who runs for the crash trolley as you take a reaction to a drug you have been given…

I, may be the person who holds your hand as you have the cancer removed from your face, wisdom teeth extracted or who helps to fix your broken jaw. I, may be the person you tell you have not yet recovered from the death of a loved one…

I, may be the one who helps remove your troublesome tonsils, takes a tumour from your thyroid or straightens your broken nose. I may be the one who gives your mummy a cuddle as she leaves the room…

I, may be asked to hand off your grumbling gallbladder, hold open your abdomen or offer assistance to a team of highly skilled, quick thinking, caring individuals who have spent the last seven hours fighting to make you well. I may be the one to support my team after you pass away on the table before us…

I, may be the person who helps position you to allow your broken hip to be replaced, washout an infected dog bite to your hand or handover the pins, plates or screws to piece together your arm after you fell from your trampoline. I, may be the one who cleans up your abscess after you became infected during your drug addiction…

I, may be the one who has ensured the equipment needed to remove your cancer-ridden womb is readily available, who has supported, educated and guided newly qualified students, stood up for young doctors under pressure to perform. I, may be the one who has wiped the tears of others and my own…

I, may be the one who supports you during one of the most amazing times of your life, be the first to hold your newborn baby and welcome them to this world. I, may be the one who has to wrap your baby in a bag and hand over to the skills of my colleagues to resuscitate within seconds of them being born…

I, may be the one who hands over the knife to incise your abdomen from top to bottom, to hold a pack to a bleeding vessel or pass the suture to save you bleeding to death. I, may be the one who doesn’t eat, drink or go to the toilet for eight hours…

I, may be the one who has the most interesting, varied and rewarding job…

I am, a Theatre Staff Nurse.

Opinion

‘Student nurses graduate with £54k of debt, shouldn’t we pay them a wage instead?’

The Government claims students are “supernumerary” and “not contracted to provide nursing care”.

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student nurses walking

Student nurses are the unseen workforce and vital to patient care.

While I am pleased for the thousands of students who will soon be starting their journey to become a registered nurse, it comes with a stark reminder.

In November 2015, ministers announced the NHS Student Bursary and tuition fee payment would be cut in a plan to increase the number of available student places.

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Suffice to say, this hasn’t worked.

Instead, we have seen a consistent decline in the number of student nurses qualifying. Official figures from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) show an overall decline in applications of 8% since 2015.

There is no debate that nurses need to be degree-level educated – but are student loans the best way to fill an ever-widing gap in our workforce?

The unseen workforce.

Student nurses are the unseen workforce and are sometimes vital to the delivery of safe, compassionate, person-centered care.

Completing over two-thousand hours of hand-on, direct clinical practice over three years – is it fair to ask them to accumulate up to £54,582 (plus 6.3% annual interest) of debt?

With a starting salary of £24,214, this is a debt the majority of nurses will never pay off.

The Government claims that because student nurses are “supernumerary” and “not contracted to provide nursing care” they need to be treated like all other higher education students.

While is it true that the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) mandates that student nurses are considered ‘supernumerary’ – how realistic is this expectation? We hear stories of student nurses, trainee nursing associates and healthcare support workers being used to fill nurse staffing gaps on an almost daily basis.

A self-perpetuating cycle.

With an estimated 40,000 unfilled nursing vacancies in the NHS alone, health and social care services in England are stuck in a self-perpetuating cycle.

Chronic under-investment in services has led to an increased demand on staff and subsequently affected recruitment and retention rates. Universities then fail to recruit enough nurses to meet the current demand and so the cycle continues.

The Royal College of Nursing has called on the Government to invest at least £1b per year into nursing education and come up with a long-term plan after its plan to increase numbers has failed to work.

Matching the proposed apprentice wage while student nurses are on placement would go some way towards alleviating the financial burden the government has placed on student nurses.

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Opinion

A fresh start?

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RCN Congress

I’m excited and I’m nervous. I qualified as a nurse just 15 months ago. I left a career in IT of “quite a few years” – I decided I needed a fresh start.

Now I’m sat on a train heading to my first ever RCN Congress. I’m a voting delegate and will be honoured to carry that responsibility for my branch.

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I’m also excited to finally be meeting people that I’ve solely (or mostly) only ever connected with online.

Finally, I’m looking forward to the various debates and resolutions. Listening to the speakers will further inform my views and I might even share a thought or two myself – fortunately speaking in public does not generally worry me (I’ll be the one with the ukulele).

A brief glance back to this time last year when certain “irregularities” were noticed by some members around the pay deal and communications regarding it.

The train of events that followed uncovered a number of poor practices regarding transparency and accountability and our current council were elected to address these.

I also mentioned I am nervous.

Recently, it has become clear that further “irregularities” have occurred – and questions will be asked.

Tomorrow morning is the Royal College of Nursing’s Annual General Meeting – an opportunity for members to ask questions. An opportunity for the council to demonstrate its commitment to openness, transparency, and accountability. An opportunity for a fresh start.

I genuinely hope the answers to the questions I raise are clear and dispel the concerns many of us have.

And if they don’t? Well, that’s why I’m nervous.

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