Almost three quarters of senior nurses working in acute medical units have experienced problems filling shifts, according to the results of a survey by the Society of Acute Medicine.
Just under a quarter of nurse managers who responded to a survey said they had often or always struggled to fill vacant shifts with registered nurses, while 42% reported occasional difficulties.
In addition, 45% of respondents reported difficulties recruiting nurses for permanent positions in AMUs.
The findings from the survey, which was carried out in 2010-11, form the basis of a research paper presented to the society’s spring meeting in Coventry yesterday.
Its authors warned the findings could mean many units were frequently working with fewer staff than necessary.
They recommend rotas be introduced to take account the potential for burnout of nurses working in AMUs with a high turnover of emergency patients, and that time should be made for continuing professional development.
Although survey respondents were broadly positive about working in acute medicine – 85% said they would choose the specialism again if they were starting their career over – many highlighted that the specialism was not well recognised.
The paper said it was also a “significant cause for concern” that the majority of respondents felt there was a lack of opportunities for career progression.
Lead author Liz Lees, a consultant nurse in acute medicine at Birmingham’s Heartlands Hospital, said: “This is the first research of its kind which specifically focuses upon nurses who work in acute medicine.
“It provides an insight into current issues, but crucially, it also provides ‘advance notice’ and with this an opportunity to shape the future nursing workforce.”
Society president Dr Chris Roseveare said: “Nurses are the linchpin of every acute medical unit; it is essential that we develop and sustain a high quality nursing workforce in acute medicine.
“This research has identified some vital factors which are needed to ensure the recruitment and retention of this key group of hospital staff.”
- Research Report: A national survey exploring the profile of registered nursing staff working in AMUs
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