Nursing the nation

“I write poetry in response to experiences; I can’t help it, it’s just something I do. It is always an organic process. Poetry is such a perfect, distilled medium, dew-drop clear and has the power to evoke such change. My life changed when I discovered poetry, I saw the world in a whole new way.”

Molly Case is a cardiac nurse. She wrote a book: How to Treat People. She has a theory about why there is such an appetite for dispatches from the operating theatre and the intensive care unit, where matters of life and death are part of the daily round. “Modern life is so frantic and everybody is so busy clicking things online and rushing around that there’s this collective need for introspection. People want to look inward at their bodies and minds. They want to unpick how society works and find out what makes the people looking after them tick,” she says.

This gave me goosebumps…..

How to Treat People is not overtly political but implicit in the stories Case tells is just how difficult her job has been made by 10 years of austerity. “Staffing levels are frightening,” she says. “Too often there is too few staff not only to do the job you’re there to do but to do anything above and beyond. My job is really incredibly simple. It sounds corny but I’m here to help people, to care for them and make them feel better. It’s not rocket science. Not be able to do that is frustrating, to say the least. The job is busy, your bottom doesn’t touch the chair, you’re on your feet for 12 hours, which is fine. I enjoy that way of working but if you have too many patients you can’t provide anything extra. You can’t even offer them a wash in the morning, one of the most basic fundamentals of care.” Even worse is when what she is doing feels unsafe: “You catch eyes with your colleague on a short-staffed shift and you both know that you are flying by the seat of your pants and you are lucky that nothing has gone wrong. It’s so depressing and this is why nurses are leaving.”


Illustratie: Maria Lassnig