Home > nursing, politics > Paying more to care because of economic failure – history repeats itself

Paying more to care because of economic failure – history repeats itself

The NMC (Nursing and Midwifery Council) is currently consulting on increasing the annual fee that we must pay to work as a nurse from £76 to £120! This is at a time when our pay packets are already suffering from a 2 year pay freeze, and April’s increase in pension contributions. We entered nursing to care for patients, but the enormous stress and financial pressure being put on us as individuals and at ward level is threatening our mental and emotional ability to do that.

Just 8 years ago NMC fees were £20, and then more than doubled to £48 in order to pay off debts accumulated in part because of … the stock market crash! Yes, history is repeating itself with nurses again being squeezed in exactly the same way because of our economic system!

Apparently there has been an increase in “fitness to practise” cases – that is nurses and midwifes being investigated and potentially removed from the NMC register due to poor care. The NMC states it exists “to safeguard the health and wellbeing of the public” and a key way it does that is by investigating whether we are “fit to practise“. Now all this sounds good and well. But our ability to care for patients does not exist in a vacuum.

There are some nurses who shouldn’t be nursing, but the majority of us entered a profession where we spend 12 hour shifts wiping bottoms, juggling technical care with paperwork and get paid less than those with less qualifications such as firemen because WE CHOOSE TO CARE! If I was an arsehole there are a million other jobs where I could indulge a cruel or uncaring side to my nature – hell, I could be in finance! – but instead I chose to nurse because though the financial rewards are puny, they are outweighed by feeling like I’ve had the privilege to take care of another human being at their most vulnerable, in a way that respects and nurtures their autonomy and individuality, and hopefully made a positive difference to their day, and even life.

But all this requires me to be fully … human. Fully there, at the bedside; physically, mentally and spiritually healthy. Taking care of someone who is dying, and their loved ones, is not a rare occurrence for us, and doing it well is both rewarding and demanding, in every respect. And then there’s the time when I successfully got your granny back on her feet, caring for her through a urinary tract infection that had temporarily given her psychosis and vicious strength! It was hard, frustrating, tiring, to keep getting those antibiotics into her as she clawed away at me but she is a human being, with decades of life behind her that I will never know 1% of and it was an honour to treat her the way I’d like my mother to be treated if she were in that bed. There are quicker, less demanding ways I could “do my job” and just get through my shift – but they’re not the right ways to look after someone else. I am not a nurse to just survive a shift, though there have been plenty when survival was all I was begging for! No, I’m a nurse, 99.9% of us are nurses, because we choose to play our role in wider society by healing and caring for you and your loved ones at their most needy.

I’m not arguing against having a registration, because there are a minority of nurses who should not be nurses. But the rest of us – well we just want to be given the opportunity to be the best nurses we can. Because we can be awesome. We know how to be awesome nurses. But not when we are tired because we’re not sleeping properly because of financial worries. Not when we are stressed because hospitals have been squeezed way past breaking point and the only way that more patients aren’t dying is because healthcare workers, including nurses, are unsustainably pushing themselves to try to keep it all together.

By increasing our registration fees the NMC is putting yet more pressure and worry onto us, and states that it needs to do this because there has been an increase in “fitness to practise” cases that its needed to investigate in the past few years. Now I strongly doubt that this is because nurses have spontaneously become cruel and uncaring. No, I think its the unsustainability of our workload, combined with the stress of increasing costs but a frozen pay packet. I think these have conspired to take their toll on our ability to nurse. And increasing the registration fees is going to increase our stress, which will increase the numbers of good nurses unable to cope anymore, increasing yet further the number of those fitness to practise cases that are being blamed for this current registration fee hike…

NMC – do your job. Safeguard the health and wellbeing of the public by facilitating nurses to be all that we can be. Join us in the fight for proper staffing levels – at the moment we’re struggling to maintain “safe” levels of nurses on the wards, but how much better to aspire to a level where I could spend half an hour talking with the wee old lady who isn’t getting any visitors in the last weeks of her life? If I could be with my patients at every snack and mealtime to help them eat if they need it? Thats really not much but would make an incredible difference. NMC, help me to be the best nurse I can be because I’m paid adequately, so my rent and bills have been paid and I can focus fully on my patients. NMC, don’t squeeze me yet further by increasing the amount I have to pay to work, because its shortsighted and will increase the numbers of fitness to practise cases and the numbers of nurses forbidden from doing their job because of a crisis caused by the economic system we live in.

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  1. Allison
    June 15, 2012 at 8:23 pm

    Brilliant analysis. I would also urge the NMC to go after the registrant budget holders of whatever profession for making the budget cuts which are affecting the safety of the public.

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