Think of the Nursiest Nurse you know … you know the one … the one who we all want to be like, the Nurse who is knowledgeable, confident, courageous, and is the best Nurse you have ever met. Now imagine that Nurse tells you that they want to leave nursing … this is what happened to me this week! To say that I was speechless is an understatement, the conversation left me feeling bereft.
Having returned to nursing in a care home during wave 1 of the covid pandemic I have recently found myself in a strange sort of place. I love being a nurse, and throughout my career I have always spent time being a frontline nurse as I feel that I can give and gain so much from being “out there” However my experiences of the early days of the pandemic had left me feeling nervous about ever returning to frontline nursing again. The thought walking into the building and donning my nurses uniform made me feel unwell. I talked about this with a Nurse friend who not only listened and empathised but also shared some words of wisdom that I needed to hear, she said “once you get there and get going I know you will be ok” and it was with this in mind I booked myself on to a bank shift.
I have to say that my friend was right (something that she will no doubt be a little smug over) the worst part was walking through the door, once I got in it was fab to see that everyone was as happy to see me as I was to see them. I was a little shocked to see from the computer system that it had been 195 days since I had last taken a shift and I got to talking about this with a colleague ….. this is the colleague who is the Nursiest Nurse ever, she is phenomenal at her job, she is something that many nurses aspire to be. We started chatting about the early days of the pandemic and remembering what we had to cope with and how we got through by laughing and crying together. I admitted to her that I had not been back before now because of those experiences and it was then that she admitted to me that she was thinking about leaving …. leaving nursing!
Frankly you could have knocked me down with a feather ….. yet I could very much relate to where she was coming from. There is a saying going around at the moment: we are all in the same storm but different boats during this pandemic, we are all experiencing the same troubled times but our journeys are different. However, I know that the Nursiest Nurses’ journey and mine were very similar at the start as our boats were side by side. I know what she went through in those early days, as I did too.
So, what do you say when an amazing nurse tells you that they want to leave nursing …. and right here is where we came in dear reader … I was speechless for a good few seconds (with the majority of my shocked face being hidden by my mask) …and then I said “I understand”
We chatted some more and it turned out that it was her last shift before some annual leave, which left me feeling a little relieved as we were then able to talk about her having some real downtime and switching off. She promised me she would take some time for herself and try not think about nursing for a week.
We see the numbers being shared via Twitter and email bulletins – a large number of nurses are thinking of leaving the profession, but what does it really mean? I’m not sure that I truly realised until the Nursiest Nurse and I had a conversation. It means that many of those fantastic Nurses, that you know, no longer want to be nurses, it means that all of that expertise, knowledge, confidence and courage will be lost to nursing, and it means that nursing will be lot less, both in terms of numbers and as a whole.
I don’t know if I said the right thing but I do know that times are tough for Nurses and it’s not going to let up for some time to come. Is there a solution ? I guess the solution for me was having someone there to listen, someone who knows what it’s like, someone who knows me and someone to let me know that it will be ok …. which is why I said to my wonderful colleague “I understand”
Which leaves me with one parting thought wonderful reader …. be there for eachother.