Bad Nurses

The interrogator sat opposite the interviewee, his machinery sat on the table between them. He checked his screens with care, watching the pupil dilation of the woman he was addressing.

“Miss Jones”, he said, “You are walking in the desert and you come across a tortoise that is laying on it’s back in the baking sun. What do you do?”

“I pick it up and turn it over – poor thing”, she replied.

The interrogator made a few notes and asked her his follow up question, “And once you have completed your training and gained your degree?”

“Easy – fuck it, let it die”.

The interrogator stood and reached across the table to shake her hand, “Congratulations, welcome to nurse training”


The government has said that there is a problem with compassion in nursing, that nurses don’t ‘care’ enough. So today they released their plan on making nurses work as Healthcare assistants (HCAs) for up to a year before they start their training. Apparently this will teach prospective nurses how to care for people – something that I seem to remember from my own nurse training which didn’t include the HCA component. Obviously all nurses are horrible bastards while all HCAs are paragons of compassion and are never lazy or arrogant.

How much does the government value combatting the horrors of Mid Staffordshire? I their own words it must be ‘budget neutral’, in other words it must not cost anything. Which I think shows how seriously they take the care of the <strike>plebs</strike> public.

There seems to be the thought that, in the process of doing a degree, a prospective nurse has all human compassion removed from them. The person applying for a nursing degree may initially do so due to compassion for their fellow human, but sitting in classrooms, writing essays and going on placements somehow strips them of their empathy.

I also think that there is element of sexism in this anti-intellectual approach – nursing is still seen as a ‘woman’s job’, and the impression I get is that if we teach these women to a degree level then their wombs harden over and they lose their feminine caring. The discussion also seems to be around whether nurses really need a degree, after all can’t they just be taught on the job?

(The answer to that is no by the way)

However, it would seem that the government is sending a mixed message, first that educating nurses makes them into empathy-free robots, while they also want nurses to become mini-GPs (as I was) in order to provide primary care on the cheap. And if you think about it, if Cameron broke his ankle would he see a nurse practitioner, or would he see a doctor?

I think that this is also a way to get HCAs on the cheap – making students work on a ward in order to gain a bursary rather than ‘employ’ them with employment rights and pensions and all that sort of thing the government seems desperate to get rid of.

I wonder if further traction might be made of this idea. MPs lost their humanity years ago, probably as they start in a public school, go to a red brick university and then become MPs via a stream of ‘think tanks’, and consultancies. Perhaps they should spend a year as an HCA in order to remind them that voters are people and not just dots on a demographic graph. If you look at Jeremy Hunt and his actions, do you think that he cares for the person on the street?

I shall tell you why nurses appear ‘uncaring’, it’s because of the paperwork, the constant pressures, the cuts in pay and jobs. It’s because unless you are a nurse or similar then you don’t understand the stresses you are under. Patients think that the nurse is being dismissive of them specifically – not because she has seen patients like you for twelve hours a day for the past five years and really, you aren’t that different from those that came before you and eventually it can wear you down.

Obviously something needs to improve, For example Schwartz Rounds. But attacking nurses for being over educated rather than addressing the root causes is not helping anyone. (Although these attacks are presumably ‘budget neutral’).

This just continues the attacks on nursing that are happening on a regular basis and a cynical person (i.e. me) would suggest that this is the government continuing to soften up the NHS in order to make it easier to sell it for their mates because obviously the solution for uncaring nurses is to employ private companies to provide care. After all if there is one thing that we know is that an unfettered capitalist system looks after the weakest members of society.

Anyway – I apologise for the rant, I had a tiring day today as a nurse and that sometimes makes me grumpy and a bit incoherent.