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Why DO frontline staff have to work such long hours?

In 1981, when I was 18 years old, I started my SRN/RSCN nurse training in Birmingham.  It was a very exciting time of my life – I had wanted to be a nurse since the age of 7 when my Auntie (who was a nurse for many years) used to tell me all sorts of stories about the people she looked after and I wanted to be just like her.  I loved her uniform and she promised to give me her silver buckle once I qualified.

Why DO frontline staff have to work such long hours?I loved the work, (once I got over the big challenges of leaving home!) and after I had completed my first year I decided that I would stay a nurse ‘for ever’.

Unfortunately things didn’t turn out quite like that.  I had 3 viruses which each lasted a week then a few months later I caught Glandular Fever from a baby and this led to 6 months’ off work seriously ill – I would have had to stay in hospital initially, if my Mum hadn’t been able to give me the care and attention that she did at the time.

When I was gradually recovering from my illness, I made the very difficult decision to give up nursing altogether, as having taken so much time off I needed to drop back a year and lose the friends that I had made.  I decided that nursing apparently wasn’t meant for me as none of my colleagues had been ill as I had been.

Once well again, I took on completely different jobs which I also enjoyed but in a different way.

Fast forward and in 2002 I discovered life coaching and thought this would be a perfect role for me – helping people but not sick people.  I trained and set up my own business full time coaching in 2003.  Fast forward again and in 2014 I began to make some great contacts on Twitter – many people working in the NHS and feeling stressed, exhausted, overwhelmed and generally ‘put upon’ and therefore burnt out.

Why DO frontline staff have to work such long hours?My natural caring nature and desire to help others led me to finding ways to support them, wherever they were based, so that I could support them to do the work that I had so wished to do myself, yet circumstances hadn’t permitted.  I developed a 90 day online programme to help build resilience, a little each week, so that after 12 weeks the users become much stronger, rather than stressed, clear about their values, their confidence built up again and ready to function more fully once more.

Now, more recently, I find myself noticing and reading so much about suicide among doctors and others in frontline roles and I’m seriously wondering how and where has this all gone wrong?

What leads caring people to take their own lives?

They must be under so much stress to even consider this when their work is dedicated to saving lives.

Who decided that in order to be a doctor, you have to work extreme long hours, you have to go without sleep, you have to just keep going until you drop?  Yes doctors are well rewarded financially – or so it may seem – however when you work out the number of hours they in fact work, their hourly rate is not very good at all.

I believe that when someone works so hard that there is no time at all for themselves, they may consider quitting ‘life’ due to sheer exhaustion and stress from the drama that each day involves.  This cannot be right, fair or safe.

Why is it that the NHS finds it difficult to recruit new staff?  Because people realise that the hours are excessive and the rewards may not be sufficient when considering the risks and general lack of wellbeing that is likely to ensue.

I may have my rose tinted glasses on, but what would it take for training and the subsequent work of NHS frontline staff to be less excessive, less unhealthy and instead, start taking into account that these people are human (NOT Superhuman) and their actions need to be safe each and every minute of every day.  When they’re running on empty, lives will be lost or damaged, many people will suffer, both staff and patients.

We need to take great care of those who care …and urgently.

Who is out there who can help make these changes?

Please get in touch if you feel the same way as I do and you’d like to do something about this.

Please email [email protected] or call me 07783 107 236.  Thanks for reading.

P.S. This post was inspired after reading the following articles earlier today: