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Exclusive: New course seeks to prepare future nurse leaders

  • 9 Comments

A new course for aspiring directors of nursing has been commissioned by national NHS bodies to help senior nurses take up executive posts inside a year, Nursing Times has learnt.

The new course is partly a response to concerns that trusts were finding it harder to attract nurses into director roles due to the pressures facing the service and also because a lack of training meant nurses were not prepared for the rigours of leadership at board level.

“Nurse leadership has had a bit of a knocking, so we want to grow some confidence in people”

Peter Blythin

Nursing Times understands a total of 11 senior nurses will begin the masters-level course when it launches next month at London South Bank University.

Commissioned by the regulator the NHS Trust Development Authority and funded with £50,000 from national workforce training body Health Education England, it will take place over four months.

It will prepare participants with skills in areas including using data from clinical audits for improvement, strategic thinking around national policy, how to take collective responsibility for board decisions, and styles of leadership.

Peter Blythin

Peter Blythin

Peter Blythin

Modules will be taught over nine days in total, including some weekends – which will also help to prepare nurses for the level of commitment required to be a trust chief nurse, according to those behind the course who described it as “a seven-day job, 365 days a year”.

Those applying for the programme had to be either a deputy director of nursing or head of midwifery and also had to have the potential to become a chief nurse within 12 to 18 months, as endorsed by their director of nursing.

Employers will be expected to ensure directors of nursing support participants through the course, and chief nurses from other trusts will also be used as mentors.

The new programme – which attracted more than 50 applicants – comes after an investigation by Nursing Times last year found one in eight trusts in England had a nursing director vacancy over the summer, with the post being open for an average of 10 weeks.

“For a time, as fast as we were filling posts people were leaving but it has calmed down”

Peter Blythin

Peter Blythin, the TDA’s director of nursing, said the course had been set up partly in response to vacancy rates, but also because previous similar programmes had ceased to exist.

He told Nursing Times that the vacancy problems had recently started to subside prior to the course starting. The “tide has stemmed” in the past six months and rapid turnover rates had reduced, leaving only around five executive nursing vacancies across trusts at the moment, he said.

“For a time, as fast as we were filling posts people were leaving but it has calmed down and the labour market has improved, so it’s not perfect but it has improved,” he said. “The application rate is much higher when you’re advertising posts than it was a year ago.”

London South Bank University

Exclusive: New course to prepare future nurse leaders

London South Bank University

Mr Blythin said trusts had lost “too many” chief nurses in the past “because it’s proved to be a very difficult and demanding job”. The course, he said, would help to “grow some confidence” among potential applicants.

“A lot of people that come up for director of nursing posts have been incredibly strong operationally but where they sometimes fall is not engaging with the board corporately or when they can’t think where the next five, 10, 15 years will take nursing,” he said.

He added: “One of the issues about nurse leadership is it’s had a bit of a knocking, so we want to grow some confidence in people. These are our leaders of the next 10 years, [so we want to] give them confidence to speak out about nursing, to have vison and to have pride.” 

  • 9 Comments

Readers' comments (9)

  • michael stone

    Dr David Oliver was writing about 'senior nurses' in a BMJ piece a week or two ago, and one of his points was 'interesting'.
    He commented that when doctors 'move into management' within the NHS, they tend to continue to also continue with some clinical work: this gives them an opportunity to revert to a clinical role if they wish to.
    But he suggested that this isn't anything like as true of nurses - although he said some 'nurses in senior management' still do a little bit of 'clinical stuff', it typically isn't enough to allow the nurses to return to clinical nursing: once nurses 'seriously pursue management', he suggested that their links with 'the front-line clinical area' are 'cut' much more than is often the case for doctors.
    If that is indeed a problem, I don't think this course would address it ?

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  • michael stone

    The piece where David Oliver mentioned the issue I pointed at above is at:

    http://www.bmj.com/content/352/bmj.i978

    There are also two interesting rapid responses to that article, by Catherine L Andrews (a nurse who is now in Australia) and by David Oliver himself.

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  • Michael, there is a very big difference in medical career paths and nursing career paths.

    I was a bit of a rarity as a Band 7 nurse, as my job was ostensibly service development but in reality became almost exclusively clinical, and most Band 7 posts I know of are predominantly, if not exclusively, managerial.

    Above Band 7, aside from rare as hen's teeth nurse consultant posts, nursing pretty much ceases to exist and the posts become service manager or whatever at 8A and above. People filling these posts MAY have a nursing background but do NOT function as nurses: they are managers.

    Personally I do not recognise these "nurse leaders" as nurses any longer, as they gave up clinical practice years ago, and all those I had dealings with in my last 2 trusts (a period of 15 years) did absolutely NOTHING for sharp end nurses. They are no more nurses than me: I am retired and came off the register at that point...

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  • michael stone

    Hi Basket Press, I think what you described, was the point David Oliver was making - your 'I do not recognise these "nurse leaders" as nurses any longer' observation.

    The point (well, one of them) - if I understood it - was that doctors still see the medics who are involved in management 'as one of us', but that is much less true of nursing. Which potentially 'creates a gap' between senior nursing management, and clinical nursing.

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  • Medics maintain a clinical role: in my old service 2 of the consultant psychiatrists were associate directors of medicine, having carved out management time in their work plans, which meant they were still a visible and credible clinical presence within the service.

    Contrast with nursing in that trust: we had a "senior nurse", on 8A, for our bit of the forest, but I never saw him, even though he was supposedly my chain of professional accountability. Not that he would have been much use, having no experience in my line and not having worked as a clinician for about 8 years before he was parachuted into that job...

    I got more useful advice from either a senior psychologist or one of the aforementioned associate medical directors (well, I had known him since he was a senior registrar and I was a staff nurse) than I ever did from the supposed nursing structure. Or from my sister, who is a general nurse at the other end of the country.

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  • michael stone

    Basket Press, it 'strikes me' that only you and I, seem to be showing any interest in this piece.

    I know I 'wandered slightly sideways' with the 'senior nurses enter management and become detached from the clinical stuff, in a way less true of doctors', but there are loads of comments on NT about 'senior nurses not representing us [front-line] nurses', and if that is a factor, I would have expected more contributions ?

    I'm not sure, but pay might be at work here - perhaps senior clinical medics, and medics in management, are being paid comparably in both roles, whereas (and I don't know this - you probably do, but I'm 'sort of guessing') nurses can make more money by moving into [senior] managerial roles ?

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  • Michael, in answer to your query, Nurses make considerably more money moving into management roles. However, I think it is more complicated than retaining a clinical interest or 'keeping one's hand in.' As someone who trained in the dark ages of number 7's and 8's (nurse management posts were allocated numbers, with number 8 being the DON) we rarely, if ever, saw the DON in a clinical area. It had less to do with pressure of work and more to do with the gap between management and clinical. That does not appear to have changed. As a ward manager, the last person I would want by my side in an emergency would be a DON. They are as far removed from the clinical area as it is possible to be, unlike Consultants who seem to balance both and who use their clinical expertise in private hospitals. A consultant undertaking private work receives handsome remuneration; a DON working as a bank nurse would receive the same as anyone else, i.e. not a lot! It must also be remembered that the number of nurses for whom a DON is accountable far exceeds the number of Dr's for whom a Consultant is accountable, which may allow them the luxury of having the time to pass on their knowledge to junior medical staff. DON's simply don't do that.

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  • michael stone

    ANONYMOUS6 MARCH, 2016 4:09 PM

    Thank you. I was thinking of medical consultants who also 'do senior NHS management roles part-time' - but, I think the point is there in your answer, that nurses who move into senior management, probably do get paid a lot more.

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  • Sorry not to have responded sooner Michael: Anonymous has partly addressed your question about money, and it is implicit rather than explicit in my posts.

    As I said, nursing as a clinical discipline pretty much stops at Band 7. To earn more a nurse needs to move into management - 8A and above. Many more senior posts - directors of nursing and their assistants/deputies/whatever - will be on "off scale" rates of pay, the exact amounts of which can be hard to discover. I do know that my last DoN was paid to the same level as other trust board members (around £130k starting, with several opaque bonuses and access to more expenses than the rest of us, like assistance with lease car payments) and that they were receiving pay awards of between 9 and 11 % during years the sharp end nurses were on pay freezes.

    The associate/assistant/whatever medical directors I knew were paid as consultant psychiatrists, because they still functioned as that, but got extra allowances - for want of a better term - on top of consultant salary for their medical director bits.

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