An Irish nurse 'I began to hate my job. I questioned my career. There were days when I came home crying'

A former public sector nurse highlights the challenging working conditions she and her colleagues endured as they cared for patients.

AS I SIT here on my fifth night shift I contemplate writing this or not. However it is something that has played on my mind ever since I graduated.

I graduated just over two years ago and there was a ceremony with family and friends. We had lots of inspiring speeches on the day and were all very excited about the prospect of becoming a nurse and where our journeys would take us. I was excited and naturally apprehensive.

A nurse’s responsibilities

Throughout nursing studies, we were continuously reminded of the responsibility we held, from timely documentation, to medication administration to close monitoring of a patient you feel is sick or is just “not right”.

As nurses in Ireland we spend up to 13 hours a day with our patients. We get to know them. It is nurses who alert senior members and doctors about a patient’s deterioration or change in condition. This is OUR responsibility. This is OUR job.

Nursing is one of those professions where you must constantly be on top form, put aside whatever tiredness you have from switching from day shifts to nights over a 48-hour period. Or not sleeping the night before as you were so wound up getting into bed after a 13-hour day that you simply couldn’t sleep.

‘I was left alone with 13 patients’

I went into public sector nursing. As a newly qualified nurse, I was left alone with 13 patients on a night shift. I was placed into an Acute Medical Assessment Unit. I was placed in Accident and Emergency and I was sent on ambulance runs. Why? I was used to fill the gap because there was no staff.

Staffing. If you hear this word once in the Irish nursing profession you hear it a million times. A few months after my qualification, having worked on the wards, I began to hate my job. I questioned my career choice. My mood was low and there were days when I came home crying. My parents can vouch for this.

I had no job satisfaction and felt I couldn’t give enough to the patients I was trying to care for. I also felt sorry and ashamed for trying to nurse patients on corridors.

‘I became a patient myself’

Getty Images Getty Images

During this time, I also became sick. Being a patient in a public Irish hospital has been one of the biggest eye openers for me.

As a patient I had a full on experience of how much pressure nurses are under. I was literally stuck to a hospital bed for 10 days, so I had no option but to sit and watch everything that went on. I saw the continuous needs of patients, from hygiene needs, to medications and toileting assistance.

Shortly after my recovery I decided I would give nursing one last shot and move to the private sector. If I was still unhappy I was going to leave the profession completely and go back to college.

A year later I have left the public sector and (sadly) have never looked back. Naturally there are a lot more resources within the private sector. Staffing is generally better and patients are given topnotch care. But is that not what nursing should be? Is that not what we are trained in? Good, timely, effective care.

Our healthcare system is stuck in a rut

We need more community-orientated healthcare. We need to move on with the times. We need services that can “mind” those at home.

Then we can keep infections under control, cut down on hospital-acquired infections and free up beds. Long-term care waits continue to be a massive problem, hence extra beds are added to corridors. Not only is this completely unsafe but it puts extra pressure on nurses.

Why not focus on opening areas that are solely for the use of those who are well but just awaiting their long-term care setting? Why not train up more healthcare assistants, who can help in nurses’ roles like recording blood pressures? Why not take on more healthcare assistants? Healthcare assistants  ease nurses’ workloads.

For me the government is still utterly clueless about healthcare and management. One would think that now, coming out of a recession, with education and the predicament about rising population numbers, that we would have some grasp of the Irish healthcare system or that we would be managing to get on top of things.

But no, it seems to be a constant problem with no improvement and no plans.

Nursing is an incredible profession

I realise I am not making nursing in Ireland attractive. This genuinely makes me feel sad because nursing is a truly incredible profession.

As a nurse now I tell student nurses I meet to keep their head up, to not get bogged down with bad morale or pressures in the public sector. I tell them that there are other opportunities once you qualify. The opportunity to travel or to specialise. Can you blame Irish nurses for wanting to leave and work abroad?

I tell them that the nursing profession is amazing. I have held the hand of a dying person. I have had the privilege and honour to be involved in the care of a patient in their last few hours of life. I have gotten to know patients and their families.

I have had patients open up to me about their personal life and problems they have faced. I have given re-assurance when patients are worried. I have assisted those patients who do not know who they are or where there are.

I have cried at home thinking about a patient who has been diagnosed with the worst news imaginable. I have giggled on night shifts with colleagues over the silliest of things because of pure exhaustion.

Would I change my profession?

Not in a million years. I am writing this piece to give an honest insight into what an Irish nurse can face nowadays, and what I have faced.

I am writing this piece as I appeal to the Irish Government and senior figures to look after our nurses.

The author of this piece has requested to remain anonymous.

An ED Consultant on the trolley crisis: ‘There are solutions and they are multifactorial’>

As hospitals recover from record-high trolley crisis, staff are considering a strike>


Your Voice
Readers Comments
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.