Health

Paediatric Nurse warns: “It could be me or you”

Not an image of ‘Rosie’ [photo credit to Engin Akyurt]

The frontline worker still loves her job, but is ‘tired and drained’.

A paediatric nurse working in the North of England has issued an urgent message for her generation about coronavirus: “The youngest person I’ve seen in [an Adult Intensive Care Unit] is twenty four. That could be me, that could be you. I need people to understand that this isn’t going to go away unless we all do our bit.”

Rosie (not her real name) qualified as a nurse in 2020, and has been working throughout the entire COVID-19 pandemic. She has requested to stay anonymous due to possible repercussions. The nurse is in her early twenties, and sympathises with people who are struggling in lockdown. “First of all, I get it. I completely get it. I have days where I’m just done, and fed up, and want it to be over. I think people just need to take a step back, and look at it from the bigger picture. Seeing people now stops us seeing people in the future.”

The young key worker also warns those who may think they’re safe from COVID-19 due to their age. She knows the harsh reality. “The first patient I looked after on [the adult Intensive Care Unit] was a 45 year old man, previously fit and well, ran his own business, and suddenly got very sick. He was in the adult ICU for 121 days before he was discharged.”

‘Seeing people now stops us seeing people in the future’

Rosie

Rosie never expected to find herself on an adult ICU, but since October, she and her colleagues have been called to these units to help with the overwhelming number of patients. This is challenging for a number of reasons. “From a practical point of view, the ICUs I work on have completely different technology. Their ventilators are different, their monitors are different, the way they clear breathing tubes are different, the terminology is different. For example, if a child starts dropping their oxygen levels we give them whats called a ‘boost’. In adults that is called a ‘flush’, but in paediatrics a flush is something completely different. So, having different terminology shouted at you is very scary.”

The woman gave an example of the real consequences of her lack of preparation for this new environment. “The other day, my patient desaturated, which is when you drop your oxygen levels. In kids, that’s fine. If [a child] drops their oxygen levels from 100% to 80%, you’re like, “okay, they’ll come back up, we just need to give them a little bit of oxygen.” In adults, that is an emergency, and I didn’t know that. So I was just sat there, and then suddenly had four AICU doctors around my bed space. It’s a different world entirely.”

The nurse also expresses her frustrations at the government’s treatment of nurses. “[The government] don’t appreciate us. They might think they do, with Boris Johnson naming his son after the doctor who cared for him— ‘how nice’— but if they cared they would put a lot more money into the NHS and their nurses. I know that Theresa May famously said that there isn’t just a big money tree we can shake, but if we look at MPs and the other areas of the government where money is going, it’s just inexcusable at this point.”

‘The government don’t appreciate us.’

Rosie

She says that there is a culture of guilt whenever a nurse expresses anger at not being paid more. “I’ve seen a lot of discourse saying, “nurses getting this 1% [raise] when other key workers aren’t getting anything, you should be grateful!” or “you should just do it because you love it, it’s a work of heart!” and yeah, I love nursing.”

Rosie emphasises that nursing is the best thing to happen to her, but it is hard work. “I think a lot of people think [the outrage] is just about money and it’s not. It’s about getting that recognition, getting that acknowledgement from a government that you’ve worked tirelessly under. It’s about them saying, you know what, you have worked bloody hard.”

Another new struggle is the routine that has been forced on her. “We can’t do anything on our days off, so we’re either lying in bed, or watching Netflix, or we’re at work, or we’re sleeping to go to work. It’s not a healthy work life balance. This is not what I signed up for, at all.”

‘I still love my job, but I am tired. I am just drained.’

Rosie

The frontline worker stresses that her passion for her career hasn’t gone away. “[The pandemic] doesn’t effect how I view the job. Children are amazing. They’re so resilient. The way they view the world is amazing. They could be the sickest of sick, especially where I work, in ICU, and they still have this amazing positive outlook on life, and all they’ll care about is watching Paw Patrol or having a cuddle. I still love my job, but I am tired. I am just drained.”

Categories: Health, National

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