12 May 2016

My Birthday Wishlist

Not that anyone's asking but if money were no issue, here's what this soon to be mum of three would like for her 30th birthday:


11 May 2016

The twelve worst things about early pregnancy

So you're pregnant! 2 blue lines on the wee stick! Amazing!.... Sort of.

Don't get me wrong I love being pregnant! I love the bump, the scans, the smiles from old ladies in the street. I don't even really mind the odd belly rub. But I HATE the first trimester.


3 May 2016

Thomas and Friends Take-n-Play Jungle Quest Review

We are huge fans of Thomas and Friends Take-n-Play train sets, so were absolutely delighted to be asked to review the new Jungle Quest Playset as part of #TeamThomasUK. 

25 April 2016

You do know how that happens don't you?

I recently announced my pregnancy. Normally this is an exciting, precious time spent shrieking and talking about names and online browsing for baby clothes, and to some extent it is. But this baby, this 1/2 a banana with fingernails and eyebrows* is a little different.

This baby is my THIRD baby. (*I just had to google how big my baby was, I could have told you in a heartbeat what sized fruit the first two were without googling!)

Yes, I've crossed a line, from normal human with 2 kids, a socially accepted norm, to CRAZY lady who must have taken a leave from her senses or forgotten to take her pill.

6 January 2016

Starting Preschool: Take Two

This week saw the start of a new era in our lives. My giant baby, the second born, my humungous bundle of joy started preschool.

He will be going for 2 whole mornings a week. A grand total of 6 hours a week at the same preschool as his brother, in the care of a wonderful team of women who I know love him already. 

As he toddled in, aged 2 years and 3 weeks, (and 3 months younger than his big brother when he started) I noticed so many differences to my first experience of a child's first day.

My first baby on his first day.

My overriding feeling of taking the eldest to preschool all those months ago was worry. The sort of panicky, tight-chested, neurotic worries that only a first time mum can know. They followed me around all day like wasps around an ice cream. Bzzz What if he's sad/cold/tired/hungry/needs a cuddle? Bzzz Am I breaking his trust in me sending him to a bunch of strangers? Bzz Will they tell him that boys don't cry? Will another kid push him? If they did would he tell a grown up? BZZZ Will they open his yoghurt for him? Would he ask them to if they forgot? BZZ BZZ BZZ WHAT IF HE GETS SAND IN HIS SHOES?!!?!


2 January 2016

Agency Nurse Pay Cuts

My name is Amy and I'm an 'agency nurse'.

Even in my own mind that phrase has negative connotations. Of laziness. Of greed. Of low quality nursing care. 

These connotations, which even I struggle to get past, go through the minds of every nurse I work with.

But I'm a good nurse. I work hard. I have years of experience across a range of specialities. I truly care about my patients. I am keen to learn. I stay late whenever necessary to make sure my documentation is of the highest standards. I gladly give up my tea break to chat to mums who need a friendly ear. 

I didn't train to be a nurse to work for an agency. I'm not doing my masters in nursing to work as a temp. I trained and I continue to train to be part of the best health service in the world.
I'm not "an agency nurse" at heart. I'm an NHS nurse.

I left the NHS when my husband started working 9-5. He could no longer fit his work schedule around my ever changing unpredictable shift pattern

Agency nursing offered me what the NHS couldn't wouldn't: the ability to work one shift on the same day every week, a day when my husband is at home to take care of our 2 preschool aged children. Part time work while my children are very little. On a day that I can arrange childcare. Doesn't seem too much to ask of a 24/7 service does it? But the NHS (on the grounds of 'fairness') now require every shift worker to work a combination of days, nights, weekends and weekdays.

Childcare settings on the other hand are only available on the same days each week. A friend of mine has been on a waiting list for a "Friday" session for months at her child's nursery. There's little hope of finding one which will have the boys for a different day each week with often only a few weeks notice of the dates.

Without a local set of healthy, willing and available grandparents to call on, it's a tall order to source childcare for 12 hour shifts that change every week. I'm sure some people have found a way, but I couldn't.

So I left the NHS.

When I left I gave up my pension, the security of guaranteed work (and therefore income), chances of career progression, development opportunities and, crucially, my place in a team. Love or hate your colleagues at work, you should cherish them. I truly miss being part of a team, even just knowing who to steer clear of and who to ask a favour of when you're in a bind. It's exhausting trying to get to know brand new team every few shifts as well as learning where they keep the sats probes, how you get to theatres and how their paperwork works.

As well as missing knowing my way around, I miss the stability and security of a 'real' job. Just last week my shift was cancelled. It was a shift I booked in as extra to pay for Christmas presents. A few weeks earlier I was sick, I couldn't work and lost a quarter of my monthly income. We coped with that because the pay from agency work is was enough to make up for that instability. Was. 

This year a huge change is taking place for agency nurses like me. The increased wages which used to make up for the loss of guaranteed income, loss of sick pay, loss of pension, loss of training and development opportunities are being reduced.

Soon my wages will be the same as an NHS nurse. The same pay per hour but with none of the perks of being employed, like sick pay, or a contract.

We'll struggle to pay the bills. Something will have to give. Our quality of life will decrease. 

But paying us less will save the NHS millions. And that's wonderful.

I care about the NHS and want to save the NHS as much as anyone.
The problem is that cutting my wages isn't really solving the problem that the NHS don't have enough nurses. Reducing my pay isn't making it any easier for me to come back. Paying me less won't drive me back into the open arms of the NHS because the reasons I had to leave still stand. 

I'd love to come back, all I ask is that I can work around my family.

Simple, obvious, family friendly working conditions would bring me back.

Letting me work weekends while my kids are little so my husband can look after them. Or allowing me the same shifts each week so I can put them in a nursery or get a child minder. A nights only contract when they go to school so I can do the school runs and sleep while they're at school. Easy solutions for childcare issues, solutions that used to be commonplace when I was training to be a nurse.

So, bizarrely, although I'll be 30% worse off this year, I welcome the reduction in my pay... Or at least I will, as long as the NHS uses this opportunity to bring back real family friendly contracts for nurses. Like 'the good old days''.

I can only hope that the pay cuts will bring real, positive change to the NHS. That I'll find a job that allows me to work part-time while my boys are so little, but with all the many wonderful benefits of being back in the bosom of the NHS.

My concern is that, if the NHS doesn't take the next step and make these simple changes, then dedicated, highly trained agency nurses like me will be driven out of the profession altogether.