Staff Nurse? Staff Nurse? Where are you?
Off trying to do three people's jobs, that's where.
One of the things that I found really difficult as a junior General Medical doctor was the sheer scale of understaffing of the nursing staff. Patients frequently had delays to their treatment and discharge and frequently failed to receive good care because there simply weren't enough nurses to look after them.
I clearly remember one morning, in my first few weeks as a qualified doctor when I walked onto the ward and realised that there were only two qualified nurses on the ward to look after our 30 patients. When one nurse goes on her break or off the ward we had a patient:nurse ration of 30:1, and I sooned learned that staffing at this level was certainly not an uncommon occurrence. It's awful, it's unsafe and it's unfair on everyone, staff and patients alike.
The nurses were understandably stressed and frazzled as they ran around simply trying to keep a track of the dozens of things that were happening on the ward. I felt bad asking them to do things (like give a patient medication) because I knew that they already had a million things to do and it would just add to their workload.
The operating theatres and intensive care unit, where I spend my days now, are certainly very well staffed. Starting work as an anaesthetist was like a breath of fresh air and I think staffing levels are certainly part of the reason I'm enjoying my job so much now.
I'd like to think that things are getting better on the medical wards, but it seems things are just as bad as ever.