What is really the public’s view on healthcare professionals?
‘’Nearly half of the healthcare workers (48%) do not feel appreciated for their service. In contrast 84% of Brits have been really impressed by their services and 79% of them believes that they are aware of the challenges facing healthcare professionals and 50% of the Brits would be willing to pay more taxes to fund the additional £2bn per year spending on the NHS’’.
This is a key finding from a recent survey by JobMedic. Reducing it down, the findings say that as healthcare workers, we feel undervalued. But the public are saying that they are impressed by the service we provide, especially under the pressures that we have to deal with. Surely these two statements can’t co-exist, so why are we feeling undervalued if the public does indeed value us and the work that we do?
As a midwife, I can say that there have been times when I’ve felt under appreciated. I’ve had long shifts where the public haven’t been very nice to me, for reasons out of my control. I’ve spent hours apologising to people that have just been waiting for a doctor to review a scan, which could take ten minutes. What people don’t understand is that that doctor has to cover several different departments on his own, and is currently in theatre delivering his third baby of the day by emergency cesarean section. It was a life and death situation, but he also has to cover the routine appointments as well. He knows you’re waiting, but he can’t do anything about that. We know you’re waiting, but we also can’t do anything. A friend of mine recently gave birth where I work, and spent a large amount of her pregnancy sitting for hours in our waiting room. Herself and her baby both received emergency care by the doctors. She said only now, does she truly understand what is meant by “the doctor is busy.”
Sometimes we see our friends and family earn more money than us, doing a 9-5 office job, with half the stress we experience. We see other people going on work nights out, paid for by their company, all expenses covered. Meanwhile we have to supply our own pens, and work through our un-paid hour break.
I also believe the media has a lot to answer for. You rarely see headlines about the midwife who stayed an extra two hours after her shift ended to support the women she’d been caring for all day, but will often see a story about staff shortages, poorly explained medical incidents and how the NHS is being run into the ground. It’s no surprise which story would sell more newspapers, but the damage to our morale costs us a lot more than money.
So why do we continue to work in our chosen professions? The short answer is, because the good outweighs the bad, and we really, truly, love what we do. We know that the system is against us sometimes, but 99% of the time our patients really appreciate us. And they do understand. I’m lucky enough to be able to say every month I receive lots of commendations from patients that have been happy with my care, and each one I keep to look back on after a particularly tough day. I’ve received cards with the most beautiful messages, and presents that I keep in my bedroom that remind me of the person who gave them to me. There’s no better feeling than a patient saying thank you and hugging you before they leave to go home with their new baby. To sit and reassure a woman who’s crying because she’s struggling to feed her baby, or is just overwhelmed, is a privilege. Her thanks is a bonus. You can tell when you’ve made a difference to someone’s experience, the feeling says more than words ever can.
Interestingly, the results of the survey show that both the public and healthcare workers state the same challenges that healthcare workers face; feeling under-valued by NHS management, low pay and long hours/no time for breaks. These three points are nothing to do with the care of the public by NHS staff. They are to do with a difficult working environment, politics and funding. However when I read that the public had highlighted the same challenges that we as healthcare workers had, I was pleasantly surprised. Especially also finding that 50% of the public would be happy to pay more taxes to help us. It’s the start of a mutual understanding between the patient and the healthcare worker – taking the challenges completely out of it – we want to help each other, and we understand each other.
So the next time you see a negative story about the NHS, ignore it – and think about all the times you’ve been made to feel better at a doctors appointment or a visit to A&E. Think about the midwife that held your wife’s hand when she was having your baby, or the nurse that held your brother’s hand when he was receiving cancer treatment. Think about the thousands of doctors, nurses, midwives, healthcare assistants and other NHS workers that miss Christmas, birthdays and weddings because they want to look after you. And we do really want to. We’re not going to work because of the money, or the shift work or the staffing levels – it’s because we like looking after the public. And the more that surveys like this are carried out and written about, the more we’ll all feel more valued.
For the full survey findings click here:
My name is Lottie and I’ve been a qualified midwife for two years. I work in a busy maternity unit as a rotational hospital midwife. I have a BSc in Midwifery and a BSc in Psychology, and have a passion for mental health, self-care and wellbeing. Working in healthcare can be tough, so my objective is to help improve the mental and physical wellbeing of healthcare practitioners by providing tailored advice and support. I run my staff wellbeing group “Midwives Matters”, and I am looking forward to training as a counsellor and psychotherapist in the future.