'I was the nurse who wiped your tears': Woman shares emotional story of why she left general nursing

Gabrielle Cooney McGuire

A Meath nurse has written a hugely emotive post on why she left general nursing to become a flight medic, saying she had to train her bladder to go seven hours without visiting a toilet because she never had time on duty.

As nurses return to work today and consider the details of the recommendations agreed at the Labour Court yesterday, Gabrielle Cooney McGuire said: "Never has so much been done for so many by so few."

Gabrielle Cooney McGuire loved her job but left because "I was worn out, my head hurt and my heart broke."

The mum of two said on social media: "I was the nurse who cried the whole way home after giving a patient the best care I could - but not the care he deserved

"Whose family didn't need to ask how the day was, as my blotchy, tear-stained face told them all they needed to know.

I felt your anxiety as you waited to go to theatre, I felt your pain as you watched a loved one slip away, your anger that your mother had to spend a night on a trolley in a bright, loud ED because there were no beds.

"I was the nurse who wiped your tears as you were brought in to see your son's lifeless body, after the life-saving surgery because of a construction accident just wasn't enough.

"I kept your secret, keeping your 'unsuitable girlfriend' and narrow minded family apart, so you could see them both as you went through your treatments.

"On New Year's Day, I was the nurse who laid your son out after his motorbike accident while the police went to your home to break the devastating news of his death.

"I pumped your chest on the forecourt of a petrol station in the desperate hopes of giving you another chance of life, even though scars on your chest from previous cardiac surgeries and clear indication of lack of oxygen and blood supply made me wonder was I doing the right thing."

The strong-willed woman has blamed the lack of nurses and not the lack of beds for long waiting times

"I left a public sector permanent and pensionable job over ten years ago as I could no longer have any hand, act or part in the fiasco that was, and is the healthcare system.

"I brought a man back from theatre after surgery to the ward at 5pm one day and the next time I clapped eyes on him was at 10pm because I was just too busy.

"There were other people that needed looking after, 12 post-ops, five of them major. I just didn't have the time and what upset me was that man could've bled to death.

I thought, I can't do this. If that was a member of my family, I wouldn't be happy with that level of care.

"You come out from CPR, you've cried because you are human but then you have to pull yourself together and put a smile back on your face because someone out there is wondering why their mother hasn't yet been seen.

"The reason for cancelled surgery and appointments is not due to a lack of beds but a lack of nurses to man them.

"I can now go over seven hours without going to the toilet because I had to. I didn't have time on duty. Sometimes I might have been lucky to get a cup of tea at 10am and then nothing until 9.30pm that night.

"This strike was not solely about pay. It was about not having to leave a job you love because it's just not paying the bills.

"It was about being able to encourage nurses to stay in the profession they love instead of leaving because they are burned out from carrying an unbearable load of trying to care for more than you are physically able for."


Gabrielle now works as a flight medic around the world and spends up to 20 days a month in the air, giving patients one-to-one care.

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