Warning Northern Ireland emergency nurses 'burn out in six months' and suffering PTSD

Staff at the Royal Victoria Hospital. Credit: UTV

Newly-qualified emergency department nurses are being left burnt out within six just months because of the pressures of the working environment, staff have told UTV. 

Daily overcrowding and workforce shortages are having both a physical and psychological impact on staff, even leaving some with PTSD, ED nurse James Coogan warned.

It comes amid a workforce crisis within the heath service, with shortfalls in staff levels having risen by 17% in just one year. 

"Our staff are doing their best to manage. But sometimes it is a huge struggle. I was told when I came into nursing you can only do A&E for about five to seven years before you reach your burn out," James said.

"We are getting some nurses in and it is burning them out within six months to one year because it is so full on."

UTV was invited to spend two days filming inside the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast - Northern Ireland's busiest hospital - to see first hand the pressures staff are under. 

The reports from the visit are part of a UTV News special on the current state of the health service.

UTV spoke to staff and patients across many parts of the hospital site. 

Bed and workforce shortages mean that planned surgeries and procedures are having to be postponed on a daily basis.

Over in the Vascular Ward, staff said that some patients are having their procedures postponed three or four times. 

Mr Louis Lau, Consultant Vascular Surgeon, said these are time critical surgeries. 

"The team has been doing the best trying to prioritise in terms of clinical need," Mr Lau told UTV.

"According to the population statistics we should be running a Vascular Unit with 50 beds and with 19 vascular surgeons and we are way behind it.

"The health service has been seeing a mass exodus of qualified staff, including nurses, doctors and consultants. Recruitment has been unable to keep up."

In a statement the Department of Health said it remained "deeply concerned" about the ongoing pressures on staff and service and added that "the last three years have been the most challenging period for the NHS in its 75-year history."

There are concerns that the next year budget will make things even more challenging for the health service.

The department warned that the need for cuts that reduce service levels cannot be ruled out. 

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know.