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Who cares about your career?

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  • Nursing is not doing enough to nurture future leaders
  • Find yourself a mentor or coach, or someone to shadow, to get the development you need
  • It’s right to discuss patients in management meetings, but staff should also be considered
  • When employers don’t have time to develop you, you must take control of your own career

Does your employer really care about your career? Do your managers mind if you stagnate in your current role, or are they constantly pushing you to develop? Even if you are happy and settled in your job, does anyone around you care about your wellbeing at work?

Yesterday, I chaired the learning sessions at Nursing Times Careers Live in London.

The room was packed all day. And the shocking truth, I discovered, is that nurses are so busy doing their jobs, that in many workplaces, no one is being mentored, coached and developed to prepare for their next role.

”Nurses are so busy doing their jobs, that in many workplaces, no one is being mentored”

Filling the roster with band 5s is often the biggest concern of senior nurse managers, but what about succession planning to ensure senior positions of the future are filled with confident, competent nurse leaders able to shape and champion the profession?

This seems to have dropped off the agenda while organisations scramble to safely staff the here and now.

Peter Carter, former chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing and now an independent healthcare consultant, urged nurses to take responsibility for their own careers.

He told them to go out and find mentors and coaches for themselves, and to shadow nurses in settings they may want to work in. He reminded them that nursing offers a menu of career options that few, if any, professions can compete with. You could move from district nursing to oncology to theatre, he said, and have a truly varied and exciting career.

”Nursing offers a menu of career options that few, if any, professions can compete with”

Elaine Strachan-Hall, clinical director at Healthcare at Home, prepared delegates for their next job, insisting they demand interview feedback, regardless of whether their application was successful, and offered a wealth of invaluable tips on getting the job you want.

Claire Nadaf, associate professor and senior fellow of the Higher Education Academy School of Health and Social Care at London South Bank University, reassured diploma-qualified delegates who wanted to top up to a degree but were anxious about starting academic study again or, for many, for the first time.

One prison custody nurse – a role that must require a strong nerve – revealed he was afraid of studying, having joined the profession via the SEN route.

At times, her session felt like group therapy, with mature students speaking about how empowering they had found returning to study and the importance of improving their skills and qualifications. I think the session convinced a lot of nurses to consider their options at university.

“Applicants should demand interview feedback, regardless of whether their application was successful”

Sara Quinn and Shafina Yousuff, two ward sisters from Barts Health, spoke about making the move to management. Sara told of sitting in management meetings and hearing lots of conversations about patients – quite right too – but nothing about staff. In her view, that was not right.

As a new ward manager, she pledged to stand by her staff as long as they had tried to do the right thing, and in return she agreed to give them 80% of what they wanted from their shift pattern. As a result she improved retention, boosted morale and reduced sickness.

The nursing profession is so busy caring for patients that no one is thinking about how to take care of nurses. And if we employers don’t support their nurses, consider their work-life balance and nurture their careers, there is a very real risk that more will desert the profession. Even those who stay are likely to be burnt out, frustrated and demotivated. And guess what? They won’t be doing the best job possible.

The day confirmed to me that there is a place for events such as this because many organisations just don’t have the time to nurture staff. Nurses need time out to share with each other their challenges and aspirations.

”Nurses need time out to share with each other their challenges and aspirations”

The day wasn’t just about career roadmapping, and it would be remiss of me not to mention Julie Hamilton, head of nursing for revalidation, regulation and education, and Colin Ramage, practice education facilitator, from Guy’s and St Thomas’s who told delegates how to prepare for revalidation; Diane Sarkar, director of nursing at Basildon and Thurrock who shared her experienced of handling Care Quality Commission inspection interviews; and Elaine Spencer-Hall, serious incident investigator at Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals Trust, who advised on how to raise concerns and handle complaints.

Every session was packed, every speaker was inundated with questions and a queue of people to talk to at the end of their slot.

One delegate, Sandra, told me she had travelled all the way from the north east, just for the revalidation session, but had loved it so much that she stayed all day. She will also be at our event in Leeds on 15 October, and will encourage all her colleagues to come too. I heard similar stories from nurses all day.

I’m sure there are some organisations adept at retaining and developing talent, and inspiring managers who nurture and protect their staff. But is it universal? Absolutely not.

”I’m sure there are some organisations adept at retaining and developing talent, and inspiring managers who nurture and protect their staff. But is it universal?”

So, who really does care about your career? The answer, I’m afraid, has to be you.

If you don’t look after your own wellbeing, plan where you want nursing to take you, keep your skills up to date and ensure you get the support you need, no one else will.

So here’s a shameless plug – our next Nursing Times Careers Live events are in Bristol on 11 June, Leeds on 15 October and London on 12 November. If you care about your career, I hope to see you there.

 

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