Lying on trolleys like some discarded sacks

Waiting for a passing nurse to offer solace

Patients cry for help and family stand, wide-eyed

Drinking in the scene-of harried staff who

Rush around – no time to stop and care,

Too busy meeting targets, managing flow.

Sepsis! Sepsis! Quick – a needle in, blood out

Rapid fluids and antibacterial.

Did you speak to the patient?

It’s immaterial.

As long as the bundle’s complete  – move on to the next.

Standby – a siren wails – its sound echoed by the newly bereaved.

Even a sacrosanct area now houses those not yet at its threshold

How sad they should wait in such a soulful room,

Where the smell of death clings despite the floral spray.

Tragic that anyone waits at all – isn’t there a better way?

“Better employers, better staff, better care.”

When? How? Where?

(Nota Bene:  WE are already here)

Staff struggle-not just with the heavy load, but with their heavy hearts

Torn asunder by the inability to do the job they love.

Their wish-to spend some time, to reassure and comfort,

To explain, to empathise and at times to grieve.

But pressure all around – relentless – sucks out the energy and compassion

Which once characterised this team – now a shadow of its former self.

You keep cutting beds and making tasks lean

But at the end what does it all mean?

Mission statements and charters, university status,

Professors, directors, protocols, dicta

We work with people – not components and data.

Come walk with us, in our shoes – not looking at a faceless board

Promising future destinations

But amidst our brothers and sisters.

See the pleading eyes, feel the grasping hands and hear the voices

Of pain and anger and fear.

Listen to their cry and take it home with you as we do.

Adverse outcomes prompt the call: “ Noli me tangere”*

Heed we must our solemn oath: Primum non nocere.”**

*touch me not

**First do no harm