Whether it’s in the news, during work time, in our classroom or on the sofa at home. Politics is something that keeps us busy every single day, whether we’d like it to or not. If you ignore it, you’re becoming ignorant to the influence this has on your personal life. Yes I don’t use the ignorant word lightly, I believe that to understand the life that we lead we need to understand how it is being led. And how can we do that if we don’t understand the rules of the country that we live in?
I am entering the nursing profession at a time of turmoil. It’s in ‘the worst shape ever’ and the amount of staff leaving is unfortunately not equal to the amount of staff entering the profession. So why would I still go into this if it’s such a mess? (Close your eyes if you don’t want to read a cliché) it’s because I care with every fibre in my being, and I believe that becoming a nurse, a caregiver for those that need it is my true calling (yes I went there). But, you might think, what has politics to do with any of this? And what if I was to tell you: Everything!
If someone had told me in my first year of Uni that nursing was a political minefield I would’ve laughed out loud, no way that I was going to get involved in politics, let alone going to work in a job which is being controlled by politicians. It didn’t take me long to find out my point of view was very naïve. The NHS is a wonderfully constructed healthcare system, which the UK should be extremely proud of. I don’t think many people actually understand the amazing treasure they have in having ‘free’ healthcare. Seeing my mum and dad (in the Netherlands) struggle monthly to afford to pay their healthcare insurance isn’t a better option in my opinion.
What I didn’t realise about the NHS though was the amount of governmental influence it has and needs to run. I sometimes wonder why it’s called the NHS and not the Department of Health’s health-service. Number crunching, funding, staff pay, cost-cutting, hospital and other healthcare services shutting down, isn’t necessarily decided by the trusts, but guided by the financial input from the government. And with the cuts growing year on year, and the government being in a financially unstable condition (although able to give themselves pay rise upon pay rise), what better thing to cut funding on than the national health-service, right?
So, why don’t we see more student nurses talk about this? I am part of many Facebook groups but it’s always the same people posting, standing up, roaring. What about the other 80/90% of nursing students? Why aren’t they standing up and speaking out? I believe education around the political landscape of the NHS needs to happen more. Yes it’s one thing knowing the make up of the NHS model, who is in charge of what etc. It’s another thing knowing that you as a student are able to have your voice heard in parliament. You can influence practice, be part of the creation of guidelines, educational changes, governmental steering committees and I can go on. But why isn’t this promoted more from within? Why aren’t universities teaching the future nursing workforce that their voices matter?
I for one am loud and proud about becoming a nurse, standing up for what I believe in. I might not be leading at the front in pictures in newspapers or speaking up on television, but I speak up in meetings, with passion and enthusiasm for the career that in the not too distant future I will be a part of.
If you want to know more about how you can get involved – go to student parliament days, become a student information officer for the RCN, speak up at your student union and be outspoken at your school board committee meetings.
(Ewout van Sabben – student nurse)