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‘Beyond exhausted’


Mayo nurse talks exclusively about life on the frontline

Áine Ryan

THE pandemic has truly exposed how it is past time for the voices of ‘beyond exhausted’ nurses to be heard.
That is the view of one nurse who, in an exclusive feature in today’s edition of The Mayo News, writes: “Covid has made everything worse but this crisis has been bubbling away for years, and now we are utterly overwhelmed by the volume of patients they we have to take care of, in a system that is staggeringly unfit for purpose.”
Speaking yesterday (Monday), Emergency Department Nurse, Marie Lyons, who lives in Louisburgh and works at Mayo University Hospital, said: “I don’t know one single nurse who is happy with their job. We don’t seem to get any support from a system which doesn’t really give nurses a voice.”
She stresses this is a cultural problem and is endemic in the entire system, which, she stresses, has many dedicated staff including managers, doctors, nurses, assistants and porters.     
“We are all beyond exhausted, and the Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the weaknesses in our health system, particularly the ratio of nurses to patients. We need to mandate better ratios here. It would not only save money for hospitals but also 100 percent save lives,” she told The Mayo News.  
Marie Lyons reveals that on one recent night shift she had to care for 15 patients with complex medical needs and vulnerabilities.
“How can I care for 15 patients with a variety of needs even with a hardworking health care assistant to help me? Some patients are confused, some need intravenous infusions, some get acutely ill during the night. And most of our patients are elderly and need personal care and medications. In this situation it’s not remotely possible to give each and every patient the attention they deserve,” she asks.
She writes how during that particular night, a young man fainted on top of her in the bathroom:  
“In the middle of that night, a young man fainted on top of me in the bathroom. There was a moment of comedy as we staggered around for a bit while I tried to hold him together and ease him to the floor so that he didn’t hit his head. He was a lanky six foot two to my five foot nothing. We were finally both safely on the floor and as I waited for help, he looked up, his face ashen but smiled at me sweetly, patting my arm. I laughed and shook my head and tried to ignore the fact that I was probably kneeling in pee.
“Despite our situation he had complete confidence in me and knew that I was going to take care of him. I was the nurse.
“In Ireland everyone trusts the nurse.”

System’s silence
SPEAKING to The Mayo News, Lyons acknowledges that ‘the system doesn’t seem to take kindly to healthcare workers or management speaking out’ but she says the time has never been more urgent.     
Marie Lyons explains that in a former role as a manager and nurse at Delphi Adventure Centre, she became very aware of how important it is ‘to talk to the people on the ground’.
“In the hospital setting there are no meetings with nurses who could come up with constructive solutions to improve how systems work. I see so many colleagues have left in recent years because of a culture of hopelessness with no sign of any change coming,” she says.  
Lyons adds that this is because so many nurses and, indeed, their excellent line-managers are demoralised from this endemic culture and don’t feel they can, or have the facility to, speak out to hospital management, the Department of Health or Government.