‘It’s Like Spinning Plates’ – New NHS Staff Reveal What Life Is Really Like

We clapped for the NHS religiously on Thursday evenings, painted rainbow artworks in appreciation, and eagerly supported Captain Tom to raise money for them. But how do young doctors and nurses feel now?

It’s clear the pandemic has had a big effect on all of our mental health. For those who spent endless hours helping to care for us, they’ll be living with those memories for a long time.

“Even on your time off when you’re not in hospital, there’s text messages every single day saying please can someone come in and work in the hospital.”

– Dr Kiran Morjaria

Kiran Morjaria is a junior doctor working in Manchester. During the pandemic he was working in the hospital admissions department and found it “really tough” switching off from everything.

One of the things that shocked him most was the number of patients of all ages coming through the doors. He says it was “non-stop”.

Kiran says he’s worried about the mental health of all medical staff who have gone through the pandemic during their early career years just like him.

25-year-old Claudia had just finished her final medical school exams when she was called up to start training in the hospital a few months early.

She says it became “unmanageable” prioritising patients who needed the most help because everyone was really sick.

“All I can compare it to is trying to keep lots of plates spinning at the same time.”

– Claudia, junior doctor

Claudia says the aftermath of the pandemic is having an effect on staff shortages now.

“The problem in the hospitals at the minute is everyone is off. Either they’ve been contacted through the Test and Trace app, they have Covid themselves, or are off work with stress.”

A recent report from the General Medical Council (GMC) revealed a third of trainee doctors felt a high level of burnt out because of their work. This figure is up from previous years.

And it’s not just because of pressures felt at work but outside too.

“There’s this feeling of pressure you have outside of work that you need to be in work and helping,” says Kiran.

“You don’t really get that break that you need.”

The GMC report also mentioned three in five trainee doctors said they often felt worn out by the end of the working day.

But the positive to his job is that “everyone is so grateful,” he says. “That’s the side you don’t see. It makes it worth it.”

“There needs to be a culture where we normalise rest. It’s okay to take a break.”

– Zara Zaman, junior nurse

However, Kiran thinks there will be lots of people leaving the medical profession in the next few years because of the “huge pressures” the NHS has faced.

Junior nurse Zara Zaman from London feels a similar way.

Zara, who is 24-years-old, says she is “concerned” about the wellbeing of nurses and that she knows senior nurses having to go part-time or taking career breaks because of their mental health.

She started sharing insights into her life as a nurse online because she was so grateful for the support she got from senior colleagues during the pandemic.

“I felt so strongly that I do not want any nurse to ever feel alone.”

But now she wants to see more support for critical care nurses and a bigger emphasis on wellbeing.

Zara dressed in PPE while on shift.

Zara dressed in PPE while on shift.

And Kiran also wants to see changes made for young doctors.

He’d like to see them get protected breaks which will mean they can actually rest during the day instead of always having the risk of being called to immediately help somewhere else.

And he’d like there to be more debriefing sessions after tough shifts to talk through what staff might’ve seen or had to deal with.

Dr Kiran (far left) with two colleagues at the hospital.

Dr Kiran (far left) with two colleagues at the hospital.

Prerana Issar, NHS Chief People Officer, says that extra support has been introduced to help staff. These include free health and wellbeing support, self-help apps, confidential text services, online forums and telephone helplines as well as face to face help.

“I would encourage anyone who needs help to please come forward and make sure you take some annual leave over the next few months.”

Staff can access free mental health support at people.nhs.uk

Samaritans also have a dedicated free, confidential emotional support line for NHS and Social Care workers.

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