Value Or Cost?

Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the nurses and doctors have been dubbed as front liners. There were people standing on balconies, clapping for their support for nurses and other frontliners, and there were colourful lights to show appreciation for the hard work, and so on.

But now, after a few years of pandemic, some things have changed. Profoundly.

Last year, the Finnish nurses were on strikes for better pay. This year, for the first time, the NHS nurses are striking for the first time ever. And what I hear from my colleagues, Irish nurses might be headed down the same route. Are we, nurses, just driven by greed, like some media would want us to believe? Or are we finally moved out from the shadow of Ms. Florence Nightingale and become steel-hard professionals that require compensation worth the skills and knowledge we have?

What prompted me to write about this was the abrupt resignation of my supervisor from my current workplace. Her attitude to her position and the welfare of her team were exemplary; she understood that we all needed to be and feel human and appreciated at work, even if the work is repetitive at times. She understood that work isn’t some all-encompassing aspect of a person’s life and that all spare time should be used to recharge yourself so that you can function at 100% for the 8 hour shift the following day.

We nurses might be hailed as some sort of super women and men standing as a green shield against Covid-19 and such viruses. But that we are not. We are just humans.

Doing a quick search on Google reveals that Finland and Finnish nurses were not alone when saying that their resilience and mental health were at an all-time low during the pandemic. The work itself is seen as important as ever, but the pressure and archaic management systems are part of the problem that needs to change. What the health care sector needs to understand is that this is not 1982 anymore, and the managers can not distance themselves from the daily work so much so that they don’t even have a clue what the workers on the grass root level do.

The same goes for the work supervisors. They need to be willing to learn what their subordinates do first hand. If the supervisors don’t have a clue what the workers are doing or how they are doing that, how can they supervise?

When private clinics and companies, and even the public health care sector like the NHS in the UK, treats their valuable resource like Ryanair treats their Cabin Crew (“the cabin crew are like lemons to be squeezed dry and thrown away”), we are going to continue facing a massive shortage of nurses and an exodus away from nursing. The employers need to understand that in order for them to be able to function, they need to tackle the problems, one of which is the salary. Another one is the management systems that need to be updated to 2020s from the 1980s.

What we and other workers desperately need is the appreciation, a true appreciation. What we don’t need is comparisons to Russia’s attack on Ukraine or constant belittling how we are “just doctors’ assistants and nothing more.”

What we need more supervisors like my former supervisor. Being humane and understanding produces workers who fare better and get better results. And maybe then, we truly will become super nurses.

What we need are people who see willing to truly stand by us when we are hoping to get a salary that can compete with the constantly rising living costs.

And, to my former supervisor, if you ever read this blog – thank you for supporting me when I was feeling really low. It meant a world to me.

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