Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Why do Nurses always look like hell?

It's true. We look like slobs.

First problem is the uniforms. Right now I have only one that fits. I am not allowed to have anymore from the trust due to financial cutbacks. I am not allowed to buy my own uniforms outside of the trust. I sometimes leave work at 10PM at night and have to be back at 7AM the next day. I am a clean freak so that means that everytime I come home from work I wash the uniform and put it in the drier before I go to bed. I do this even if I left at 10PM and have to be back at 7AM the next day.

I get up at 5AM to get ready for my early shift and take the uniform out of the drier and iron it. Then it goes in a carrier bag and sits by the door while I get dressed. The uniform has been worn and washed so many times it looks like hell no matter what I do. If you get caught traveling to and from work in your uniform you are instantly dismissed. They have already made a few examples.

We are told that we need to change at work or else but there are no changing facilities. I think the other section of the hospital has them but we were not allowed to use them. There are portacabins outside (a 20 minute walk away)full of mice and we were told to use those but no one has given us a code to get into them.

Staff on my ward have to change in the domestics cupboard just outside the doors to the ward. It is very small and usually there are 2 of us in there getting changed. When someone else comes in and opens the door....anyone in the foyer can see us. This especially sucks during the 1PM start when countless visitors are standing around in that foyer.

Some of us started sneaking to the toilets to change but they were caught and told that this is unacceptable and to use the supply cupboard or the mice-a-cabin as I call it. The trust will NOT launder or store our uniforms, or give out new ones at this point. Other trusts do it, and they provide decent facilities for their staff as well.

So my worn out uniform has been carried to work in a sainsbury's bag and I have changed into while trying not to fall into an old cleaning bucket. My normal clothes get stored in the sainsbury's bag on the floor of the cleaning cupboard. There are 5 tiny lockers for everyone.

I am still meticulous about my appearance otherwise. I plait my long hair and wind it up in a coil for work. I pin every stray piece in place. I always shower before and after every shift. My nails are short and they get scrubbed and clipped again before work. I wear minimal natural make up so I don't scare the patients. I wear expensive shoes to work. They are very smart and comfortable. I'm a vain little shit.

10 hours into my shift without any sort of break the other day I caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror and nearly choked. Strands of hair all over the place, dry chapped peeling lips, bags under my eyes, stains on my face from crying after a death and a uniform that looks like it has seen heavy duty daily use since 1950.

This is actually very demoralizing because I am usually a snob about appearance and like to look good. I stay healthy and fit and take care of myself. I like expensive make up and beauty products and never wear the same outfit twice. I always take loads of time before work to try and look reasonable even if it means getting up at 5AM.

But that brief glimpse in the mirror showed me that during a long shift I look like the slovenly pig nurse that the public always complaints about.

If I could get a break during a shift I would redo my hair, apply some powder and lipgloss and clean my self up. Care assistants, secretaries, domestics and everyone else get time during the day to do this. I cannot even go pee without getting behind and making my patients angrier. Those of you who can take time during the work day for a makeup and hair check make me sick.

When I worked overseas the nurses bought their own uniforms from nursing stores. I never wore the same outfit to work twice. Like I said I am vain and can spend some serious money on clothes. I looked so much better. The uniforms I chose for myself were nicer with good labels and they were better quality and more professional than the shit the NHS gives us. I even bought uniforms made from bacterial resistant fabrics.

Older nurses that haven't worked in awhile may find this shocking as they were always supplied with fresh smart and clean uniforms every shift. They are also the ones who bitch the most about the appearance of todays nurses.


GrumpyRN said...

Thankfully my trust supply changing areas and launder uniforms, but what are your infection control team doing? Do they think that hygiene is saying hello to your aunt? I wont ask about unions as they are a waste of space at the moment.

Nurse Anne said...

Our infection control team is threatening us if they catch us coming to and from work wearing uniforms. They don't give a damn about the fact that my uniform is old, tatty and getting carried around in a supermarket bag. They don't care that we are getting changed in a tight, dirty supply cupboard or that the nurse patient ratio issue is the biggest threat to infection control.

Remember, its all about giving the public what they want to see, not about actually dealing with any issues. Joe Public thinks that the infection control problems are down to the nurses driving home in the uniforms. They don't understand that all the other stuff is a bigger infection problem.

GrumpyRN said...

Sad, but true.

All Shook Up said...

Aren't blogs wonderful? Without them, we'd all have to believe the NHS was perfectly run in our best interests.

Thanks for your true insights, keep them coming!

Mike said...

I don't even know where to start. I guess quiting and working somewhere else isn't much of an option. Perhaps a group of you need to get together and file a class action law suit against your employer. Granted I work in an ER in the US and not in the UK but there must be some course of action you can take.

If you have the means come over here to the US. We have many openings for good nurses, and you get to speak your mind now and then telling MDs off when they get out of line.

Perhaps the grass isn't greener over here but I have never heard of what you are speaking of take place in the US - despite how screwed up it is at times.

Hang in there.

Nurse Anne said...

I do hold a current US nursing license Mike. Like an idiot I came home to the UK after qualifying. Family commitments are keeping me here now but I will always maintain my US license. I won't say which state.

Thanks for your comments.

Glamorganist said...

Many things about nursing in 1971, which is when I started training, were seriously bad: non-existent infection control policies, sloppy infection control techniques, inadequate supplies of disposable gloves (coupled with non-existent supplies of incontinence wipes and I'm sure I don't have to spell out what this meant in practice).

Strangely enough though, every hospital I worked in had male and female changing rooms and we were always supplied with at least 6 sets of uniform which were duly washed, starched, pressed and returned to us, usually on a weekly turnaround. Each uniform also had one's name embroidered on it. How on earth has NHS management been allowed to get away with making uniform supply so much worse than it was nearly 40 years ago?

Nurse Anne said...

Trusts that are trying to cut back financially are cutting costs everywhere. You get 3 uniforms when you start. If they become tatty or start falling apart or your weight changes you need to beg for more.

Some of the sisters found round about ways of getting their nurses more uniforms. They got busted.

One of my HCA's was down to one pair of trousers with a big gaping whole down both thighs. Took her months to get another pair. She was so uncomfortable.

Most of us are buying our own trousers. If we get caught they'll really come down on us.

All Shook Up said...

Most of us are buying our own trousers. If we get caught they'll really come down on us.

Lol, Hope I'm there when THAT happens!

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