Nursing is a respected profession

"I'm giving up" Why I'm quitting my job as a nurse

Lea * (name changed by the editor) has been a nurse for eight years. She wanted to do something really meaningful, so she went to her limits and far beyond. Now she gives up and says, "Pray that you never get sick."

To get straight to the point: I wanted to be a nurse. That was no emergency nail, no coincidence, no mistake. I wanted to do exactly what it said in the job description. I knew I wouldn't mind washing people, changing diapers, tending to festering wounds. I was not afraid of meeting death. And the night shifts, the morning shifts, the holidays that were meaningless to me did not shy away from me. When I signed my contract, I knew that I hadn't taken the easy route. But I had no idea what was really in store for me. Of course, nobody can prepare you for what it is like when your heart massage has failed and someone dies under your hands. As a caregiver, you have to learn to deal with this and many other situations. Nobody can change that. But what doesn’t have to be: The constant overstrain and the feeling of never being able to do it well.

What it really means to be a nurse

I believe that there is a gap between theory and practice in almost all professions. It's particularly bad in our job. For example, I had learned to move people carefully. "Always in pairs!" The teachers had warned. "Otherwise your back will soon be in the bucket." In retrospect, this is an almost funny piece of advice, because on very few days and nights there is not enough capacity to do the same task in pairs. In order to look after an average ward reasonably satisfactorily, you would need four nurses. Then it would work to some extent. Usually there were two of us. Even nursing students supervise areas all by themselves in the first year of their apprenticeship. We have to document everything we do. Anyone who does not take this time has one foot in jail. After all, we are responsible for human life, we have access to narcotics, and we keep vital equipment running. If the excessive demands are really bad, we write an overload report that can legally relieve us if something goes wrong. Theoretically, one should do that every day with the states. But you don't do that. That creates trouble.

Pray that you won't get sick

I've seen a lot in the years I've worked in the hospital. But there was that one day that I will remember forever as the one when I mentally threw the gun in the grain. My colleague called in sick, so I started my morning shift alone. I single-handedly had to wash, store and give medication to 24 patients with severe internal and external injuries. An act of impossibility and a race against time. I ran from beeping monitors to potty beds, trying to keep up with the painkillers and changing the soaked bandages. Finally, when a relative (quite rightly) freaked out because his mother had been in a wet bed for an hour, all my helplessness broke out of me. I yelled at the man in a tone that I didn't recognize from my mouth, even though I actually understood him. I didn't know myself like that and I didn't want to know myself like that. That was the moment when it was clear to me: I have to get out of here. And I must never get so sick myself that I'm on the other side. Because it's even more uncomfortable there than mine.

Everyone talks, nobody does anything

What really pisses me off is the fact that the health system has money. It just doesn't matter in care. The surpluses of the health insurances are repaid to the insured in thousands of glutinous amounts. You know what? They don't need your 20.76 EUR. They need competent nursing staff if they ever get into the situation of lying in hospital. They'd need someone who could talk to them for two bars. Someone who changes their bandages on time and doesn't wipe away their vomit until half an hour later. For years there has been talk about the care emergency, as if it were a problem of the future. But that's not it. We are right in the middle of it and we need relief NOW. More caregivers, more salaries, more appreciation. I wonder if the politicians in charge will ever know what they are doing to patients. Probably not, as most are privately insured, including single rooms and extra treatment. Congratulations up there. Like most people, I simply couldn't afford that from my salary.

Again one less

What accompanied me every day as a nurse was my guilty conscience. To the patient when I was in a hurry, to the colleagues when I called in sick or when I was too harsh with them in my excessive demands. To the students when I didn't have time to instruct them properly and to the relatives when I couldn't find time for comforting words. Even now, my conscience is driving me insane. I am a well trained caregiver. The patients mostly liked me because I always tried to bring a bit of sun and happiness into their room. I will go now. Again one less. Another vacant position. Again, less sun and happiness in the patients' rooms. I go anyway to protect myself. To stop a change in me that I don't want to accept. I'm no longer on the ward and that scares me.

I hope politics finally wakes up and takes action. It cannot stay the way it is. There are enough people like me who are not afraid of the job. Just give us an environment in which we can stay healthy. If you've done that, I'll be happy to come back. But now I have to become myself again first.