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”
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.
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, 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.”
Exclusive: New course to prepare future nurse leaders
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.”