I Finish Work on the Ward, Then Slave Away till 1am in a Mexican Bar. That's Why We Need More Money, Mr Blair.; I CAN'T LIVE ON JOB SATISFACTION ALONE, SAYS NURSE AND SINGLE MUM YVONNE
Collins, Sharon, Sunday Mirror (London, England)
IT is seven o'clock on a damp, cold, dark October morning and nurse Yvonne Moore is just starting work in the busy accident and emergency department of a city hospital.
In a typical shift her duties range from treating the torn bodies of car crash victims to comforting relatives of the dead.
By 2.30pm it is time to go home. But any well-earned rest for nurse Yvonne is short - at 6pm she becomes waitress Yvonne, serving the customers in a Mexican bar until 1am.
Her reason for slaving away all those hours is simple - the 41-year-old single mum with a student daughter to support cannot afford to live on her nurse's pay.
And she has this blunt message for Prime Minister Tony Blair, who is recommending nurses receive a derisory rise of 2.5 per cent next April: "Nurses still won't be able to make ends meet."
Yvonne says: "I'm getting to the burnt-out stage now, but I still find the job emotionally rewarding. However, in the cold light of day I can't live on job satisfaction alone.
"I have never had any savings during my nursing career and I am only able to get by each month on a bank overdraft.
"In fact I don't know any nurses working in my department who don't have overdrafts to get by. We'll never be able to pay them off because we will never earn enough to bring it down.
"The nursing salary for a breadwinner is appalling. I can't lead an ordinary life to any degree.
"Each year there's a big public outcry and they say, 'Give the nurses more,' but each year nothing happens and we get no more money. With my age and experience I would be earning about pounds 25,000 now if I was in the police force.
"I'm not saying the police don't deserve their money, but nurses should be on a par with them. A probationary police officer starts on pounds 18,000 but doesn't have the responsibility of looking after 50 patients on a ward and running a department with 15 staff. Nurses fall very far short of a decent wage."
Fed-up Yvonne is so disillusioned with the job she loves that she is planning a new career - as a barrister, like Mr Blair's wife Cherie. She adds: "I estimate I would need at least pounds 6,000 a year more to keep me in nursing."
Yvonne, who took up nursing 23 years ago, is contracted to work part- time at Norfolk and Norwich Hospital for 22 hours a week but boosts her salary to pounds 15,500 with extra duties which can increase her hours to 50 a week.
She moonlights at the Mexican bar at least two nights a week, receiving up to pounds 40 a time with tips. "It's the difference between buying an economy tin of baked beans and having money in my purse to go to the cinema and buy myself a lipstick," says Yvonne.
"The hourly rate at the restaurant is appalling but the tips make it worth my while. If I am due back at the hospital on an early shift I do not do waitressing the night before."
Yvonne, who lives in Norwich, says she can only afford a holiday once in every three years. She does not smoke but occasionally enjoys a bottle of wine.
She takes home pounds 700 a month after tax for her basic nursing hours, pounds 300 short of her monthly outgoings. …