The other day while getting some milk from a petrol station, I was given a free coffee and some chocolate because I wore my NHS ID badge. My first instinct was to feel embarrassed. I thanked the attendant and scurrying back to my car felt a little emotional.
I am loving the huge swell of national support for NHS staff during the Covid 19 pandemic, its unlike anything I have seen since my first job in the NHS 20 years ago. It makes me feel proud of the people in our country and my colleagues in the NHS. Although it is really making me ponder, about the role I play in doing my bit for the country. Am I worthy of that free coffee?
I am a qualified mental health nurse, and I am proud of that. I will tell anyone I get a chance to. I have loved the opportunities I have had over the years to support people through some of the most difficult times in their life. It has often felt a real privilege. At other times it has been frustrating and stressful. All however has been worth the sweat and tears and I am glad of the career path I took.
For a few years now, I have moved into more corporate roles and now focus my skills on helping to shape organisation and leaders to do their best for others, with fascinating similarities to my clinical work. It has however made me feel less connected to the front line at times and often makes me question if I am doing enough to help people. I have a strong sense of social purpose, but I also have a good dose of imposter syndrome.
I am glad I work for the NHS and that I am a nurse, but I am often heard saying “I am not a proper nurse”. It started as a way of making sure people did not show me their warts and bumps at parties but now is also to lower people’s expectation or anticipated admiration for the work I do. As well as to explain that I am not the sort of nurse that is working 12 hours a day wearing PPE for their entire shift, unable to rink or pee when they want or watching their patients and colleagues die due to Covid. Am I worth the clapping on a Thursday night if I am not helping patients directly? If I work in an office but am not on the front line does that count? Do other people feel like I do? Do people feel like a fraud if we have not put ourselves at risk? Can I do more? How can I hep people who are on the front line? I am following the government guidance to stay at home other than work, walking the dog or food shopping but is that enough?
I am connecting with my friends who are busy working on the wards and community teams to check in with them, but I cannot help but wonder if I can do more. I wonder how these staff will be after this is all over. How will NHS staff process what they have been through? Will we get staff with a sort of survivor’s syndrome for not being lost to this horrid virus? Will it change them? Will they stay doing the jobs they are doing now? Will it be the point in their career that makes them leave their career or will it make them fall back in love with their vocation? Will they realise that they can do so much to ease human suffering with their kind words, patience and understanding? What can I do to help them? All I can come up with is offering them what they offer their patients but is that enough? Am I enough?