How does an NHS nurse cope?

It’s not easy interviewing Denise because every time I ask her a question, she talks about someone else. She defaults to others, continually. She is more interested in everyone else, than herself. She is one of those selfless people that can choke you up in an instant, because she is so kind and so giving. I am beginning to get it. Nurses don’t feel very comfortable talking about themselves. It’s all about other people. All the time.

Denise is currently a Community Care Nurse, an advanced nurse practitioner caring for patients in nursing homes and care homes in Liverpool.

“After 42 years of full time nursing, my family have told me to slow down and retire, but I can’t! Nursing has been my life, and without it, I don’t know what I would do with myself. It gives me a purpose in life. I just really like looking after people. I have especially enjoyed working with ‘end of life’ care because it’s vital to me that people have a dignified and loving environment at the end of their life.

“That’s why it’s especially hard at the moment. My patients in care homes can’t have visitors, when they most need them. To not have closure is a terrible thing. One of my patients is 78 and not receiving an visitors in her care home. We found out that she’s a huge Daniel O’Donnell fan, and as it was her birthday last week, a bunch of us bought Daniel O’Donnell masks, put them on and sang Happy Birthday to her through the window. She stood there crying and crying. It was wonderful to see and be part of. Vans and buses were tooting us as they drive past. But it was heartbreaking her family couldn’t be there with her on her birthday.”

Sometimes when I’m sat at home on my own, I to get a bit tearful. The other day my daughter posted something on Facebook about me working hard to help people, and the post got over 100 comments from people. That made me cry!”

The self deprecation of a nurse is slightly overwhelming. Denise adds “Right now, there are more deaths so yes, there is more stress and pressure, but I feel I’m coping well. I suppose we all get stressed and upset. Most of us are scared, not just professionally but personally. I mean how many people are we going to know that have died because of COVID-19? But I manage any anxiety by distracting myself. I also talk non-stop to my husband and colleagues. My nurse friends have a WhatsApp group, and we chat and laugh a lot…and I mean a lot!”

Denise admits nurses are irritated by the recent adoration and profile they are experiencing, because they feel it won’t last, “We are all pretty sure that people – the government – will move on from this, and forget how important the nurses and carers are to this country. COVID-19 overtook talk of Brexit, so when the virus is finished, they’ll be on to something else, and we’ll be forgotten again.”

It seems that some people are born with caring, nurturing personality traits that draw them into the nursing profession. Nurses all say they are just ‘doing their job’, as if it’s no big deal at all. Denise would say you can’t train that into someone. You either have it or you don’t. And Denise has ‘it’ in bucket loads.

My final question for Denise was what advice would she give to anyone struggling right now, and she said “Just talk. Talk to people. Laugh alot. It’s the best medicine.”

I don’t mind admitting I was choking back tears as I said good bye to Denise. She is one of 2 million beautiful people in the UK working their socks off for us all. I salute you Denise Critchley. We all salute you.

Stay home. Protect the NHS. Save Lives

If you’re interested in developing your Mental Toughness, get in touch with Penny Mallory at [email protected]