The secret nurse blog: 'It's the system that needs to change'
DAVID Cameron responded to poor standards in a Mid-Staffordshire hospital by stating nurses' pay should be linked to quality of care.
Cameron's comments made one particular experience spring to mind.
Not long after I had qualified I turned up for a night shift to discover that due to poor planning and unexpected sickness, I was the only qualified member of staff working on the 30-bed ward that night.
I had a healthcare assistant working with me, but neighbouring wards had similar problems and couldn't help.
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If I'm honest, I was a little scared at the prospect of being responsible for all those patients for the next ten hours, with very little support around.
It was a relentless shift. I desperately tried to juggle doing the medication round with answering buzzers, toileting patients and doing observations on less stable patients.
The phone at the nurse's desk rang endlessly and went unanswered.
For myself and my colleague, the night became a merry-go-round of multi- tasking, trying to prioritise whose needs were greater and who was most at risk.
While nobody died and I managed to avoid any catastrophes, I'm pretty sure that some patients lay in wet sheets for longer than necessary or had to wait for pain relief while I helped somebody else.
As the morning shift arrived at 7am my co-worker and I were at our wits' end, exhausted, hungry and stressed out – and yet went home feeling guilty for not having done a better job.
The care we gave wasn't perfect, but we did our best given the resources we had.
If our wages that night had been linked to the quality of care provided, my pay packet may have been a bit smaller that month.
The Francis report was right to state patients should be put first "in a caring and compassionate way".
But it's the system that needs to change – if budgets are cut and savings must be made, often the first thing to suffer are staffing levels.
And to penalise nurses for working within those constraints is wrong.