LACK OF ACCOUNTABILITY An A&E nurse told The Mayo News that nurses never see management, they’re never on the wards and they’re never in A&E. Pic: The Mayo News
Growing sense among nurses of ‘frustration, anger and hopelessness’
A Mayo University Hospital nurse says she goes to work in tears because the facility is not a safe environment for patients or staff. Speaking exclusively with The Mayo News on the condition of anonymity, the A&E nurse said the hospital is in chaos and although lives are being saved every day, there is a growing sense of frustration, anger and hopelessness.
The startling statement is part of a wide-ranging interview in which she says staffing levels, lack of communication and stress are having a huge impact on nurses leading to a ‘haemorrhaging’ of staff to other employments.
“The hospital is not a safe environment for patients and it’s not a safe environment for us to work in. That’s a huge statement but, sadly it’s true. In the middle of a pandemic when all the talk is about infection control yet we have a line of trollies going out the back door. This isn’t safe in any environment, but now it’s utterly beyond words. It truly is chaos.
“I’d be as strong as nails and a very resilient person, but I cry almost every day going to work.
“I’m not sure how to feel. I don’t know whether I should be angry or ashamed. I know I do a good job. I know I save people’s lives but we’re forced to work in impossible conditions with no support, no communication and I ask myself why do I bother? It’s just getting worse and worse and worse.”
The experienced nurse says staff are being drained both physically and emotionally, which has a knock-on-effect.
“People are so stressed they cannot keep working so we’re always under-staffed almost every single shift. Many nurses are struggling. Our working environment is just awful.
“I started work at 8 o’clock recently and got my first break at ten past five. I couldn’t physically leave the floor before that because it was so busy. I went to the toilet the other night and when I came out there were two patients waiting for me outside the door, asking me questions. I couldn’t even go to the toilet – that’s how bad it is,” she said, before describing some of the numbers involved in a regular shift in the A&E Department.
“A regular ward in the hospital has a limit of 30 patients. In A&E, understandably there’s no limit, so whether we have ten nurses or five nurses we have to care for our patients. We could have five nurses and 70 patients, but those five nurses are spread through the tent at the front door, the triage, the floor and if a Resus [someone in need of resuscitation] patient comes in from a car crash or cardiac or stroke then two nurses have to go to them.
“I recently came on shift and was handed 18 patients, two of whom were waiting desperately for beds in ICU (Intensive Care Unit). In ICU there would be one nurse to two patients but in A&E I was supposed to care for those two and 16 others.
“Everyone’s care was compromised. I couldn’t possibly keep up with the medication my patients needed. I couldn’t keep up with the observation they needed or the turns they needed to avoid pressure sores or help them to the toilet or clean sick off them or the hundred and one other things I needed to be doing. So, it’s easy to see how dangerous that situation was but it’s the same every shift. It’s impossible to work there – truly impossible.
“If a Resus (patient) came in during that time and I had to go to them, my 18 patients would be divided up between the nurses left on the floor and they might already have 18 each themselves. It’s impossible – it’s just putting a finger in the dyke and praying it doesn’t burst – and it’s the same every shift. The public don’t realise what’s going on behind those doors.
“On my latest shift with 18 patients I didn’t get to some of them for hours – as the girl said a few weeks ago in The Mayo News, she was in the press and nobody came to her for hours. That could have been me who didn’t get to her because I was chasing my tail, frightened someone would die,” she confirmed before being asked where she believed the source of the chaos lay.
“There’s no communication. Management won’t speak with us. They won’t even come and see what’s happening on the floor. We don’t feel supported in our roles; we don’t see any way out of this. We need more staff and we need input into how things are done.
“If management knew Stephen Donnelly was visiting on Tuesday, they’d make sure there wasn’t a person on a trolley in A&E from Monday night onwards. That could be done every single shift if they just listened to us, but we don’t see management. They’re never on the wards. They’re never in A&E.
“There are some amazing nurses there – nurses I’d rather have caring for me than a doctor. If we had the right communication and support from management and a right A&E facility we’d have the best A&E in the country, but instead we have chaos.
“All they have to do is talk to us. Talk to us instead of going off having meetings with themselves or going off consulting with engineers who haven’t an understanding about what actually happens in A&E. Talk to us. It’s so simple – but it seems impossible for them.”
In reply, the Saolta (north west) Hospital Group said nursing staffing levels are ‘a priority for management’ at MUH and Saolta.
They said that in recent weeks, the hospital has successfully recruited 15 new graduate nurses/midwives and appointed Clinical Nurse Managers to support seven-day discharging of patients. They say recruitment challenges of nurses is a national and international issue.
Saolta expects the hospital to have more than 30 new starters in nursing over the next three months. Saolta said it’s hoped to re-open the Acute Medical Assessment Unit this month as newly recruited staff come into the system.
Saolta added there is ongoing engagement with the INMO on a range of nursing and midwifery matters and there a joint meeting in relation to staffing issues planned for next week.
I’m Just a Nurse
I just held the hand of a dying woman as she passed
I just told a man his wife had died
I just suctioned vomit from an unconscious child’s mouth
I just applied oxygen to a patient finding it difficult to breathe
I just found an irregular heartbeat that required immediate action
I just got punched by a chronic alcoholic
I just got vomited on and didn’t blink an eye
I just missed lunch again because A&E is too busy
I just wore PPE for six hours straight
I just consoled my colleague because she was overwhelmed
I just did chest compressions on a young woman to help stop her dying
I just got verbally abused by a man who had to wait an hour to be seen
I just administered pain relief to a grown man crying in pain
I just took over care for 18 patients
I just cleaned up faeces with a smile on my face
I just finished work, 14 hours after a started my shift (for the third time this week)
I just heard a patient say she was suicidal
I just comforted a woman who was after miscarrying
I just supported a limb that was broken in three places
I just calculated the correct dose of medication for a patient
I just repositioned an elderly man to reduce the risk getting a pressure sore
I just applied pressure on an open wound to stop it from bleeding out
I just rinsed a man’s eyes for hours to clear out chemicals
I just got threatened by an angry relative over the phone
I just supported someone’s neck with my hands to protect their spinal cord and prevent paralysis
I just cried with a family who lost their mum
I just put a mother in a body bag
I just prepared the ventilator to help someone breathe
I just put out the trauma call and cardiac arrest call for a car crash victim
I just put mine and my family’s lives at risk so I can take care of yours
So, tell me I’m just a nurse and that we don’t deserve better, safer, working conditions
— A nurse in Mayo University Hospital, September 4, 2021