"And now, the end is near. And so we face the final curtain."
Never were a truer word spoken, Frank.
I have, over the course of this blog series, summarised elements of my experience. The whole thing took more than a year to come to a resolution and you would have been bored to tears (if you're not already!) with every, small detail.
But I have been honest about my mistakes, though that is not what it has been about. Yes, I told a joke that a senior member of staff shouldn't have told/displayed and I breached a policy I was told to adhere to, though in my defence I didn't actually know I was breaching it at the time but accepted my punishment - it was only right.
I do not wish anyone who has read this to go away thinking I hate or have resentment towards my former colleagues and friends who orchestrated this situation. I will never know why my friend and colleague and second at work decided to destroy my career, though I suspect it was because I called her on her bullying behaviour. I do not, for one second, believe this is what she intended nor had in mind. I don't think anyone could have foreseen what would happen.
I do not know why someone would accuse you of bullying them for ten years, yet have not a single piece of evidence to back it up; not an email, letter, journal or record of times and dates of incidents, records of telephone conversations of any record of having made a complaint, informal or otherwise.
I do not know why my presentation of evidence that said the opposite was ignored. I illustrated that we spoke frequently via text, were two of a team of people who, at one time, regularly went out together, that she had held my infant son when he was two hours old, who used to take him off me when I visited work and would take off his shoes and socks so she could see and touch his feet, that she volunteered to go on study days with me, that she participated in a university course with me, that she gave me a Christmas card the day before she accused me of bullying, that she thanked me only four days before on her SDR for all the support I had given her... the list goes on, but it was all ignored.
I do not know why two colleagues who again I was so close to and thought were my friends would go from being on my side to turning against me with nothing to precipitate their decision. Whatever motivated them to do so is known to them and them alone.
I do not know why my manager and her senior would say that I was always a terrible employee and Lead Nurse yet have not a single piece of evidence to support their claims. I can show via emails, texts and calendar appointments that they trusted me, liked me, believed in me and even helped me when I was so very lost. They claim the opposite, yet have nothing to back it up. Yes, they have retrospectively found things that I didn't do well, didn't do right, but only after digging.
Yes, I will have made mistakes in a job I was given zero support in and always told I was doing a good job. If that is what you are always told, why would you ever think otherwise?
All of this leaves you with two simple conclusions, neither of which are palatable.
1) I was a terrible employee and they were terrible managers in that they did absolutely nothing to stop this despotic lead nurse from destroying his team and individuals and, on the contrary, gave him praise and support whilst he did so.
2) They are lying.
It cannot be both and can only be one. There is no third option.
Again, I have only opinions, the decisions I shall leave to you, the readers of this.
I have no idea why they would say colleagues left because of me when I could so easily have those colleagues, many of whom have remained in touch with me the entire time and whom I have been on a night out with, confirm otherwise.
I have no idea why my manager would state that a specific staff member had witnessed my behaviour on a particular day and was shocked, when I have provided emails from the same person on said day and the following one, telling me what a pleasure it was working with me and that she appreciated my kind words about her.
I have no idea why they would accuse me and a colleague of having an affair that could have potentially destroyed my marriage if Kelly wasn't the person she is. My colleague who was also accused knows of these accusations. What she decides to do with them, I am yet to know.
The final part of the story was that I was given a redeployment timetable where they would try and find me a suitable position as a Band 8. I applied for many and was shortlist for none.
I secured one interview and was advised it was a suitability interview. I attended expecting as such but instead faced a full, hour-long interview with a hidden question to answer. Needless to say, I didn't get it (though whether I would have got it had I been more prepared is also unknown!).
Many posts required clinical skills and this is where I was snookered. You see, I had been specialised in a role that I loved and had had requests to expand my learning turned down due to the trust pulling funding for training. I was unable to increase my skills and encouraged to focus on my speciality. That was absolutely fine, as I adored my job, truly loved it with a passion.
However, now I was looking for an alternate position, I had little to no transferrable skills. No ones fault, I know. Just the way it was. But a bummer? Definitely!
Would they offer to train me for said posts? Nope. Senior so-and-so and my manager said that they would not employ me in any similar position in the organisation as the same thing would happen again.
What same thing? I would confront a bully and address her behaviour? Damn right I would.
Eight weeks went by and no post was I suitable for except a Band 5 and I couldn't even secure one of those!
However, the final twist occurred a week before my contract termination date was reached. I was summoned to a meeting with senior so-and-so and a representative from H.R. They felt my skills were too valuable to lose (really? I had already been told in a statement that despite believing everything that had been said about me, that they 'felt my experience made me valuable to the organisation.' You're kidding me, right?
I was offered a Band 5 position with certain caveats (I had previously floated the idea of going back to being a Band 5 out of desperation to maintain my registration), one of which was that I had to drop my claims against the trust.
I said I would discuss it with Kelly and would let them know. I told her that evening what had been offered and she said to me one thing... could I live with it? Could I live with knowing what I knew and just letting it go simply to keep my registration and my career?
Now, just to clarify, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being a Band 5 staff nurse. I loved, absolutely loved, working on a ward. I would still, when I could help out on wards, even if it was only to answer a buzzer whilst others where busy. I never once thought my banding made me superior to others nor did I think anything was beneath me I was and remained a nurse - only my responsibilities had shifted slightly.
But with this offer, it was a matter of principle. I could happily go back to working on a ward, no issue. Part of me was desperate to go back to the beginning and view it as a fresh start.
But how could I, in good conscience, forget what they had done, not to me, but to the idea of a fair trial and to the idea of justice? How could I, in good conscience, allow them to believe that if they could do this to a senior nurse, a more junior staff nurse would be easy pickings? How could I, in good conscience, allow them to get away with condoning bullying in their organisation by the very fact that they choose to ignore it?
So, the next day, I politely turned down their offer and said I would continue my fight to expose the truth of my case and to never give up revealing the extent and tolerance of bullying in that organisation.
And so, we come full circle, and back to the beginning where I said on 1st April 2018, I was made unemployed.
Even if it takes me the next day, the next week, the next year, the next 500 years, I will not stop until I reveal the truth and expose the culture that now exists in the NHS - one of bullying and harassment.
Not I said the NHS is an inspired organisation and the noblest occupations. I am proud to have contributed even a tiny part to a patient's well being and recivery, whether directly or by tertiary means.
But there is no argument, supported by the hundreds of articles an documents on the subject, whether by Lord Darzi or Sir Robert Francis or Jeremy Hut or countless others, that a culture of bullying represents a clear and present danger to the mental health and career wellbeing of some nursing staff, current and in the future, across parts of the NHS.
It must be stopped. And if my words can encourage one more nurse to stand up and say "NO", then I have done something to facilitate a change. And that is all it takes, just one person. Because then you get another, and another, and another, and before long you reach a tipping point, where it carries on under its own inertia.
I do not hate my former colleagues. I am just sad and think I always will be.
But I also learnt who out of my colleagues, truly cared for me and would stand by me, throughout everything. I learnt they are the best example of what humanity has to offer and I am forever in their debt. They know who they are. The list is longer than I think the trust would like (some were a little naughty!), but it exists and I am humbled that they cared and believed in me so much that they never faltered in their belief. Thank you to you all.
Thank you to everyone who has read and commented on this series of blog pieces - I am truly moved and didn't realise how many friends I really had. Your words have meant so much and shall forever have a place in my heart.
Thank you to my 18-year nursing career. I loved every minute of you. You taught me so much. I made plenty of mistakes, but always tried to own up to them. Most importantly, you gave me the opportunity to meet some amazing people - patients and colleagues - who always reminded you that there is so much suffering that can be eased with a smile and so much that can be done when you work together as a team and believe in what it is you do.
Thank you to my two amazing union representatives who always stood by me and did so much more than I could have ever deserved to expect. They are a testament to the health service in regards to the passion they have for supporting anyone in the health profession.
Thank you to one lady in H. R who has shown kindness and professionalism throughout my time liaising with her. She may have believed me, she may not, but I could never tell as her profession attitude never wavered. That is how it should be and she is a shining beacon in a less than honourable department.
And finally, thank you to my beautiful Turtle. Kelly never once left my side and literally kept me alive. I put her through so much, inadvertently, but she never gave up on me. She is my sun, moon and stars and never was there a stronger person.
To paraphrase a great man, I shall never forget this. Not one line. Not one day.
I shall always remember when David McCaffrey, the nurse, was me.