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Friday, 19 July, 2002, 23:10 GMT 00:10 UK
'Why I quit NHS for the US'
Nurse in the States
Better conditions lure nurses to the US

Six months ago Katharine Eves was one the many demoralised NHS nurses, now she is living her dream life in sun-kissed California.

She was one of the many nurses who chose to turn their backs on the NHS and move to countries offering better life styles.

Scots born Katharine, 31, admits she misses the UK, but says that even if she does move back only radical changes would tempt her back into the NHS.


All my friends who trained with me have now left nursing

Katharine Eves
She believes the government has its work cut out trying to make the health service more attractive.

"This is like the dream I thought I would never have. I love the sunshine, the wages are good and nurses have less hassle.

"There are no long commutes, like I had when I was in London and the weather is definitely much better.

"I was disappointed though at leaving behind all my family and friends, but I did make the right decision to go.

"I think I should have thought about this five years ago. All my friends who trained with me have now left nursing."

Depressing work

Katharine moved when her husband got a job working with film-maker George Lucas, but she admitted she had been making enquiries about relocating even before that.


I couldn't believe how silly I was not to have come to the States sooner

Katharine Eves
She qualified as a nurse in 1993 and when she left the NHS was working in London as a nursing sister on a general surgical ward, but said she found it deeply depressing.

"It is drastic. I have seen it steadily decline since qualifying.

"When I qualified I could not get a job at first because there were so many nurses looking for jobs, but if I applied today I could probably walk into about 20 jobs.

"The morale is so poor. I couldn't believe how silly I was not to have come to the States sooner."

Katharine Eaves
Katharine Eaves receiving her degree in nursing
"Often you were the only person on the ward who was able to administer intravenous drugs and that meant you were left with about 12-15 patients to look after as well as running the ward."

She said the shifts were long and tiring and that staff shortages contributed to the extensive working hours.

"We did 12 hour shifts, but you were never off on time and usually worked about 13 or 14 hours because there was never enough staff.

"If there was a bank nurse available to come in the hospital had usually contacted them too late and so they arrived late.

"I was always so tired. I have good organisational skills, but I was on my knees. It was really hard going."

She said that in the UK she earned about 9 or $12 an hour, but that in the States for a more junior position she was offered $30.

Katharine said the States had more qualified staff with a better skills mix and that nurses spent less time pen pushing and more time hands-on nursing than their UK counterparts.

"In the NHS we nurses were getting more and more responsibility, but without appreciation."

She said that nurses like herself choosing to relocate through "Assignment America" and companies like it, were offered fantastic educational programmes as well as getting practical advice on different working practices and drug names in the States.

Solution

She said that just pumping more money into the NHS would not work and that the government needed to recruit more nurses as soon as possible, not just employ more managers.


There is an almost 90% chance that I would not go back into the NHS

Katharine Eves
Looking at part-time nursing posts and encouraging older people to come into the profession could boost staff numbers and therefore staff morale, she said.

"They really need to focus on the staffing and the training of nurses, money is not the bee all and end all."

But she admitted it would be virtually impossible to tempt her back into the beleaguered NHS.

"I would encourage people to take the opportunity like I have done.

"I have enjoyed being in America and I am enjoying the learning programme.

"I have just learnt so much in such a short time about my outlook on nursing.

"There is an almost 90% chance that I would not go back into the NHS, not unless it was much improved.

"It has had my life. I am only 31, but sometimes I feel like I am 50.

"The NHS has the same issues again and again and it is going to take a heck of a lot of money and a heck of a lot of changes to make it work."

See also:

19 Feb 02 | Health
07 Feb 02 | Health
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