I am a registered nurse in an intensive care unit (ICU) and have been an RN for five years.

I control the pacemaker that makes my patient’s heart beat. I control the ventilator that makes my patient breathe. I provide a cocktail of drugs to keep my patient calm or asleep; and to increase or decrease their blood pressure. I continuously monitor vital signs, administer fluids, electrolytes, and antibiotics. I reposition them every few hours to prevent pressure areas. I listen to the heart, lungs, and do a full body assessment every shift, and when there is a change in my patient’s condition.

I am expected to have the knowledge and experience to put all of this together and know when something is wrong. Is it something that I can easily fix – a small blip in the blood pressure, a brief dip in the heart rate, or is my patient deteriorating? When a doctor gives me a plan, I’m expected to know if they could be wrong, to question, to not follow blindly.

I liaise with the multidisciplinary team, to ensure everything that needs to be done for my patient will be done. I spend a lot of time with the patient’s family, providing regular updates. I hold their hand when their voice trembles with emotion. I entertain their small daughter while they blot their eyes with tissues. I answer the questions they didn’t want to ask the doctor because ‘the doctor is too busy’ or ‘i didn’t want to bother them’.

Nursing is known as an art, a caring vocation. Caring is such an important part, but it is easily forgotten that we are professionals.  We have a bachelors degree at a minimum, and are constantly pushed to do further postgraduate study, despite there being no monetary gain.

We have so much responsibility, literally lives in our hands. When this is combined with understaffing, unappreciation, and pay that barely covers everyday essentials, it results in Nurses feeling tired, stressed and disillusioned. New Zealand’s nurses are barely making it through the day. They are burnt out, many can not afford to strike because one less day of work means one less dinner on the table.

Nurses aren’t asking for ridiculous salaries, or to have so many nurses on a shift they’re tripping over each other. Nurses want staffing that ensures they can provide thorough and safe care for their patients. Nurses want to be paid what they deserve for dedicating their lives to keeping others alive.

At the end of the day, safer staffing and better pay for nurses means higher quality nursing care for all of us when we and our families need them most. 

ICU nurse Laura Keys originally posted her story on the New Zealand, please hear our voice Facebook page – a nurse-founded page publishing stories from anonymous and named nurses with the aim of informing the public and building support during the current pay claim campaign.

Have your own story to share? Email the editor: editor@healthcentral.nz

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