Between the cancer treatment, the stroke and the broken hip, nurses have been pretty much continually on call for my mother during the past couple of years.
Daily they wash her, help her to the toilet, comb her poor thinning hair, dispense the pop of pills, plump her pillows and pick up the loose threads of strangely embroidered conversations.
Once, when she had the morphine meemies and became convinced an imaginary cat had given birth to kittens on her head, I arrived for my afternoon visit to find one of the nurses earnestly inspecting her scalp.
“No Thel.” he’d said with a wink to me, “I can’t see any fleas.”
It is no exaggeration to say that the nurses who look after my mum have kept my whole family from collapsing in a screaming heap. If they were not there to support mum, I would have to give up my job which would cause obvious additional financial stress.
My father, who has a serious heart condition, would probably not survive having mum home even with my help, and my brother would be paralysed by guilt because work and distance prevented him from doing more.
Multiply this one case by tens of thousands who, at any given moment, count on the consolation of nurses for the treatment of minor injuries or brief ailments to the catastrophic, chronic, intractable and ultimately terminal.
Now, imagine a world without nurses!
If pay and work conditions were determined by a group’s true value to society, their quantifiable usefulness, it would be politicians on the bottom rung, not nurses.
Respect their work Ted Baillieu, so that we might respect yours.