All hail the region's nurses - now let's give them what they truly deserve

Portrait of tired exhausted nurse or doctor sitting on floor in hospital

A student nurse - Credit: SIBAS_minich/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Anyone who has worked alongside me in journalism over the last two decades will know one of my pet hates is the plethora of 'days' that have begun clogging up the calendar over recent years.

I know many of them are meant as a bit of fun, but as well as many being incredibly cynical, I believe all this splurge of dedicated days has done, is take away from the ones that really matter.

Take May 12 for instance.

It's National Porridge Day, National Nutty Fudge Day and National Limerick Day, all of which sound to me like cynical events drawn-up by a marketing expert somewhere as a way to gain attention and make money.*

Lauren Jacques, deputy sister on the Critical Care Complex, shares her video diary on a night shift talking about her...

A critical care nurse breaks down during a video message in the pandemic - Credit: Lauren Jacques/Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital

But the only day I want us to take note of on May 12 is International Nurses Day - and to use it as an opportunity to remind ourselves just how fantastic, courageous, brave - and terribly under-valued this group of people are.

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There's no way I could do what a nurse does every single day. I don't have the patience, the energy, the guts or the utter determination to be on the front-line of our NHS, often at ungodly hours and often for long-periods of time.

Yet, if everyone felt the same as me, how many of the services that we almost take for granted as our right to have access to, would simply fall apart?

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You see, nurses don't just work in our hospitals looking after our physical health, they help care for our mental well-being, look after us as we grow old and much, much more.

Patient Derek Howell is pictured receiving his vaccination from Joanna Horne, nurse manager at Humbleyard Practice.

Nurses even help with the vaccine roll out - Credit: Norfolk and Waveney NHS

So why then are they apparently so under-appreciated? Why, when I'm sure many others feel like me, do so many nurses feel taken for granted not cared for themselves? Why is the industry facing a recruitment crisis?

And how do we change all of this to make nursing one of the go to choices amongst young people as they leave school, college or university?

It can't simply be down to pay - but that would be a good starting point. The starting salary for a nurse is around £25,000, rising to around £32-33,000 and beyond depending on qualifications.

Given the average wage in this country is around £25,000, that doesn't sound too bad - but consider what they do, the unsociable hours they work and the emotional strain they must be under - and that paints a very different picture.

Estrella Catalan

Norwich nurse Estrella Catalan who caught covid and sadly died - Credit: JustGiving

I'm sure no-one goes into nursing to make themselves rich, but you can't build a recruitment strategy around simply appealing to people's kind and caring natures.

"Become a nurse - you'll be knackered, poorly paid and work long hours - but at least you'll feel like a good human being," simply doesn't cut it as a recruitment slogan.

So, and this is especially the case after the events of the last 12 months, we must start paying nurses what they deserve. And then we need to give them a break.

The sector will always have a recruitment issue for as long as people think they need to totally knacker themselves out to work in it. If you could work 9-5 in an office, take home £30k, enjoy your weekends and evenings - or be a nurse - it takes a special person to chose the latter.

I'm not saying nurses should work 5 hour days, 25 hour weeks or get 10 weeks of holiday for the same pay - but to an observer like me it seems clear the balance between work and life has been lost across the sector - and that needs to be solved.

And finally, all of us, from the government down to the average man or woman on the street, can do our bit by making this fantastic group of people know that we appreciate what they do and the fact they care and they care for us.

Next time you benefit from the care of a nurse, tell them you appreciate it, because if they didn't do what they do - we'd all be a heck of a lot worse off.

*NB: I'm fully aware I say this as the editor who came up with the idea of Norfolk Day every July 27 - but I'm defending that on the basis it's only right we celebrate everything about this fine county.

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