Everybody has come into contact with Nurses and/or Midwives at some stage of their lives. This contact is often at times when we are in need. Feeling unwell or worried about loved ones. At these times we can be very raw and emotional. Some of us can even be unreasonable (not me of course). It is a testament to Nurses and Midwives that the vast majority of these interactions are positive.
This is why the Nurses and Midwives strike has received such high levels of public support. We trust them. We’ve seen them going the extra mile to care for us when we need them most. We’ve seen them run around wards providing excellent care to multiple people while making us all feel as if we are their biggest priority. We’ve seen Midwives caring for Mothers and Babies before and after birth. On busy maternity wards we’ve been cared for and given good advice and instruction on how to care for our new arrival (which is daunting to say the least first time around). Anyone who has ever had a premature baby will know the love and care that specialist Midwives and Nurses give these babies.
The decision to engage in strike action is never easy. Most strikes do not receive this level of public support because we don’t know them. Often the public only see the negative effects that any given strike will have on them. Many people listen to radio commentators criticizing strikers and think that they are just causing trouble. ‘Why should they get more when others haven’t gotten pay rises? They should be thankful to have a job. What about the Homeless?’ (Which is a national disgrace by the way, but shouldn’t be used as a reason to stop people seeking decent pay and conditions).
This time was different. There were still right-wing radio presenters waxing lyrical but the vast majority of us knew better. Nurses and Midwives are not trouble makers and they did not engage in this action lightly. Their demands were reasonable and if the current proposals are what they seem to be, we will have a safer better staffed health service.
In most of our job’s mistakes are rectifiable. An over-worked Nurse or Midwife is more prone to making mistakes. They are human like the rest of us. The difference is their mistake may not be rectifiable. Imagine the stress of that for a second. Imagine being under immense pressure with insufficient staffing. Imagine people’s lives depending on you to always get everything right. Most of us simply wouldn’t cope.
We are not a poor country. Our hospitals should be safe places. Our healthcare workers should be paid at a level that ensures staff retention. We should have sufficient staff at all times. The Nurses and Midwives strike looks like it has improved this situation. We will all be better off as a result.
We should also remember this strike when other workers are forced to go down the same road. Striking is a very difficult thing to do. We may not know or trust the next group as well but the next time you hear national radio presenters criticizing a group of strikers, remember that these are the same people who so readily criticized our Nurses and Midwives. Maybe they don’t know what they are talking about. Maybe they have a preconceived agenda. Hopefully this Nurses and Midwives strike has taught us all to know better.
Eric Nolan is a father of three living in a Midleton. He is the Labour Party’s Local Election Candidate for the Midleton Local Electoral Area. He works at Cork Airports Police and Fire Service. You can learn more on Twitter @ericnolanlab or Facebook @EricNolanLabour .