We wanted to take a look at how employees within the healthcare industry are coping with the NHS crisis – on top of what is already a very challenging sector to work in – and whether they feel HR is supporting them adequately in their role. In this anonymised interview, a Band 6 critical care sister argues that HR needs to better promote to employees the support they can offer.
Could you start by telling us a bit about your current job role and your employment history inside and outside of the healthcare industry?
I’m currently a Band 6 sister in critical care. I’ve worked in critical care for 15 years and prior to this I worked on a few different wards all for the same Trust.
In my Band 6 role I generally take charge of the unit and manage the staff, day-to-day care of patients, and admissions and discharges. Occasionally I will take a patient just like everyone else.
What do you enjoy about working in healthcare?
Helping people and seeing patients progress and be appreciative of the care they receive. It may seem strange, but it’s also good to be able to provide good end-of-life care for people, and support families through this, even though the outcome is not what is desired.
And what do you find most challenging?
A lot of patients and families are aggressive and not thankful for the treatment they receive. We have a lot more mental health patients now too, which can lead to a lot of different challenges.
Staff shortages also present difficulties.
If you could have any job what would it be?
Working with animals – wildlife or marine conservation.
Do you feel your organisation cares about you as an individual?
In terms of my immediate management, yes. But I feel that the higher management team, outside of our unit, just sees us as numbers – this seems to have got worse over the years. And I certainly don't think the government has any appreciation for us either!
There is currently a huge strain on the UK healthcare sector. How do you find this is affecting your day-to-day job?
The pay constraints have certainly not helped and morale is lower. This is especially difficult when you are short staffed; people are willing to do extra work to a certain point, but this becomes harder when not being paid a decent overtime rate. Being allowed to use agency staff is getting tougher too, and so I think we’re more at risk of staff shortages in the future.
Generally speaking, what does HR mean to you?
A team that is there to provide help and assistance when needed for issues to do with staff conflict, acting as a mediator. As well as helping with contracts, job descriptions and interviews, I believe they can also help staff access different areas of support for their wellbeing.
Do you have a good working relationship with your line manager?
Yes. They are very supportive of me and I don’t feel I have any need for outside help from HR, but I am confident that if my line manager thought I needed HR support they would suggest it.
In what areas do you think HR could be supporting you better?
I think HR should be a more visible part of the hospital. An employee’s induction is a good place to start, but I feel that more should be offered for people that have been at the Trust for a while and need support but don’t know where or how to access it, for example when dealing with stress and mental health issues. Providing more information on the benefits that we are entitled to would also be helpful. Overall, I just don’t think that HR advertise what they do very well.
If you had an HR-related query, what would you do?
I would ring them.
Finally, what three things would you like your HR team to be doing to enable you to progress in your career?
First, advertise what it is they can help with more proactively. Second, support staff that need assistance when stressed. Third, try to retain staff during this current difficult climate – the NHS is struggling with staff members going due to lack of incentive and funding.