Nurses like me don’t just get paid – we do everything we can to save lives | Judy Elliot

I I wanted to be a nurse after seeing several members of my family being treated by the NHS. I also had several surgeries done as a teenager under the NHS, and the treatment I received was second to none. The employees I remember the most were the nurses. They were the ones who comforted me and my family when we got scared and made sure I was given the care I needed. I actually went as a student to the hospital where I received treatment, and was amazed to find that the nurses who took care of me still remember me years later.

I love my job – how can I not do that when I’m literally making sure other people’s kids are healthy? But in my 10 years of nursing, I saw cracks in the service widening long before the pandemic broke out wide open. The pressure on employees is now too much. This, along with another pay deal that doesn’t get me afloat, means that the talking time has stopped. For these reasons, I will go on strike.

I know fellow nurses who have to suffer the humiliation and grief of using food banks and getting into debt to continue feeding themselves and their children. I am one of the many nurses who have had to withdraw from my pension right now, just to keep some extra money in my paycheck. Before I did, I was reaching the end of two overdrafts each month. I know I’m lucky, and there are people out there who are worse off financially right now, but even so, this temporary fix will have a cost. I don’t save for my future, nor many of my colleagues.

When I eventually retire, I would like to be reassured that I will be taken care of, the way I have taken care of those in my care.

Nurses’ salaries have not only been affected in the short term by the cost of living crisis. It has been eroded since I started this job. My paycheck has never kept pace with inflation, which means my paycheck has decreased in real terms on an annual basis. Actual cuts since 2010 are now equivalent to the average nurse working the equivalent of one day a week for free. Not only does this stress the workforce financially, but it means we can’t keep staff, and work with shortages every day. Eight out of 10 shifts are understaffed, according to the Royal College of Nursing. I see people doing their best to do the same job and provide the same level of care, but without the numbers to back it up. It’s an impossible situation. No nurse has come into this profession to do a bad job and some days it’s heartbreaking.

I hear people in government say, “Oh, nurses don’t want more salaries, they want more staff.” Well, how do they think they can find them if they treat those who actually do the job so badly? When there was a shortage of truck drivers, salaries increased to attract people to the job, which is a perfectly logical reaction. Why not do this for a critical job like nursing? People are leaving because they can’t afford to work anymore and I’m worried about my patients.

That’s why in the end, me and many nurses like myself voted to strike for the first time. His arrival at this shows how bad things are. Something has to change. I have understandably been asked about the safety of the striking nurses, as well as questions about the backlog of treatment that is getting worse. Please know that life-sustaining care will continue during the strike. Hiring would be similar to saving on Christmas Day. I and many like myself voted to strike because conditions in the NHS are unsustainable. Just look at ambulance queues outside of hospitals across the country. If we do nothing now, the situation will only get worse. All I can do is hope that by speaking out we can improve working conditions for nurses and bring care back to the level it should be.

I’m sick of ministers who think applause and “applause for caregivers” are enough. Not. I will not stand idly by while the profession I love is ignored. Our voice will be heard, and we will get the pay that nurses need and the respect that the profession deserves.