I spoke to a nurse recently about the increasing burnout of mental health staff. About the number of nurses that are becoming disillusioned and leaving. Some come in to nursing believing that they will single handedly cure the countries current mental health crisis, an act that is sadly very unlikely, the disillusionment comes when they see the same patient twice, but, honestly, some fairly down to earth nurses are going home feeling similarly because they struggle to see that they are making any difference whatsoever. They are over-worked, under- paid and exhausted and it becomes difficult for them to see the changes that they are making. It made me think, quite a lot actually, see the nurse I was talking to stated that nurses just don’t don’t change lives the way they think they will on their first day. And maybe that’s true for some, but the power of a good nurse should never be underestimated. In short I have done a fair bit of growing up in psychiatric hospitals – spending a long time cooped up at a young age brought that about. My ‘whole life’ has not changed because of the nurses I’ve met – good or bad. I’m not ‘cured’ and I’ve been in more than once. But I’ve had days change and improve through good nursing. And those days? They add up – they are my life. Every single chat that’s taken my mind off something hard, every board game played and colouring completed has given me time away from the terror in my head. It adds up. More than that, sometimes nurses have been the only barrier between myself and another attempt on my life ( maybe even a successful one) or another slice out my arm. It’s rarely appreciated, particularly at the time and I have shouted and pleaded and cried, trying to defy their advice. The good ones reason and soothe, do whatever needs done to keep me here and in one piece and then they come in the next day and treat me with the same unchanging dignity and respect. No grudges held, no past issues dragged up. And that is a skill. And I hear each day someone refer to them self as a “towel folder” or make a joke about working elsewhere and I wish I had taken time to say something but, sadly, my words often fail me and I just laugh. But those “towel folders” have made me laugh through seemingly endless sobs, held my hand as I was being stitched back together for the god knows what’th time – the frustration of that not showing on their face and have helped me through long and really difficult days. So yeah, I’ve yet to be cured, but I have been soothed, encouraged , supported and cheered up. The jokes and walks and late night chats. The times they’ve not let me go when it’s all I’ve wanted – each of these things – they changes days, hours, minutes, one more smile, one hour passed, fifteen less stitches needed – it is my life. It is changing it.
And it makes me sad the idea of these people questioning their self because whether it was said at time time or not, my life has been different, better, because of them. In reality, sometimes, my life has only existed because of them.
It really is an underrated power – the magic of good nursing and something needs to be done before they burn out completely.