Friday 23 August 2019

'I’m losing money that would be going towards a mortgage' - nurses tell us what they're sacrificing to be on the picket line

Rachael Lawless (23) from Sutton (with hat) on strike at St James Hospital (Photo: Kyran O'Brien)
Rachael Lawless (23) from Sutton (with hat) on strike at St James Hospital (Photo: Kyran O'Brien)

Rachel Farrell and Conor Feehan

Some 37,000 nurses have taken part in the nurses strikes so far, with five more strike days on the way.

Thousands of nurses say they are striking for the future of nursing - but here they tell Independent.ie what they are sacrificing in the meantime by being on the picket line.

Juliana Dowling (24), Malahide: 'I’m sacrificing maybe a weekend away... little things that people take for granted'

Our pay and conditions has gone downhill. In the intensity we work in I feel we deserve more. We can’t give the care that we want to give to our patients. It has got critical. The wards we work on are busy surgical wards and it’s not safe. If we were paid more we’d have more staff.

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Julianna Dowling (24), Malahide at the strike at St James Hospital (Photo: Kyran O'Brien)

We’ve made sacrifices to be here today. Some people work Monday to Friday but I work weekends. I’m sacrificing maybe a weekend away or something to do with my car, little things that people take for granted. We are losing out on pay but that’s how important it is to us. That’s how serious it’s got. We just have to stick together and go for it.

Debbie Twomey from Cork: 'I'm losing out on wages that I can't afford to lose'

I'm a single mom on a basic nursing wage working as an audit nurse. I had a work accident meaning I'll never work in intensive care again, where I had worked in since 2006- a job that I loved and was passionate about. I have no other experience or qualifications.

Currently I am working on the days opposite the strike and going in on strike days between school drop off and pick up. I am losing out on wages that I can't afford to lose because I believe so fully in pay parity for nurses.

I believe that a career I love is crumbling under the pressure of staff shortages, over crowding and the governments blatant disregard for us. My 7-year-old little girl knows what we are fighting for and why I am so exhausted. This is for our future.

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Debbie Twomey from Cork: 'I'm a single mom on a basic nursing wage working as an audit nurse'

Danielle* (34) from Donegal: 'We sacrifice our family time to be with yours'

When we choose nursing as a career path and profession, we are well aware of the fact that we must work 13 hour shifts. Night duty, weekends, bank holidays, Christmas, summer, Easter - that doesn't deter us, but what we do not choose is to work in unsafe conditions where wards and departments are under-staffed and under-resourced on a daily basis.

If someone calls in sick and there is no one to replace them, you have your own patients and theirs too. Double the workload, dangerous nurse patient ratio. This is when we do not get a break. How can you go of to eat when there are 17 patients in your care and no one to cover you? You can't. This is what we sacrifice.

Thirteen hour days and you're lucky if you get a minute to go to the bathroom. Going home beyond exhausted and mentally drained because you simple cannot sustain working like this for much longer.

We sacrifice our family time to be with yours. Apologising every day for sub standard care. Enduring verbal abuse from angry patients and relatives. It's not a very attractive or safe profession at the minute, and that goes far beyond pay.

*name changed

Rachael Lawless (23) from Howth: 'I’m losing money that would be going towards a mortgage'

The sad thing is they are paying all this money for this new Children's Hospital but they’re not going to have anyone to staff it if the conditions stay the way they are at the moment. They should keep the great nurses they are getting through the education system.

The government are paying for some of the best nurses in the world for what? To export them? They will be great nurses in other countries. It’s a pity.

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Rachael Lawless (23) from Sutton (with hat) on strike at St James Hospital (Photo: Kyran O'Brien)

I still live at home so by being here on the picket today I’m losing money that would be going towards a mortgage but it’s a sacrifice we all have to make here together. Every one of us is making that sacrifice.

Caoimhe O'Brien (27) from Dublin: 'Our engagement ring and wedding venue have been put on hold'

I have been that nurse that has broken down in tears during her shift because it is impossible to do the work of two nurses but still feeling immense guilt like I had let my patients down. I have been the nurse who has hidden in a linen room to cry those tears, hidden where patients and their families cannot see it, and then, walk out of that room after placing a smile on my face, ready to do whatever has to be done next.

Due to working Monday to Friday now I will be on strike every day - if all the currently planned strike days go ahead I will not get paid for 8 working days out of the 20 I am rostered in the month of February.

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Caoimhe O'Brien (27) has recently gotten engaged.

I have recently gotten engaged, but due to the strikes the ring we plan on getting and the venues we are considering booking are not going to happen, our plans have to be put on hold for the foreseeable future as we have more important expenses like food and bills that need paying first.

I do not know how long this strike will go on, but I truly hope it ends soon. But despite anything I have had to put off due to the strike I fully stand behind it, for as long as it lasts because unfortunately it seems to be the only option for us to try and get our voices heard.

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