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Conference hears from innovators in nurse leadership and retention

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A group of health visitors and school nurses have received cognitive behaviour therapy as part of an innovative leadership project designed to combat feelings of self-doubt.

All 43 participants in the pilot scheme run by the Institute of Health Visiting (iHV) reported feeling more confident in their abilities after completing the training.

Karen Stansfield, whose doctorate research informed the project, presented the early findings during a symposium in London today named ‘Strengthening Nurse Leadership and Retention’.

The conference heard from health professionals who are working to break new ground in this area with the help of grants from The Burdett Trust for Nursing.

Dr Stansfield said the iHV training helped participants develop a “leadership identity” through various techniques including cognitive behaviour therapy.

She said: “If we don’t think we are a leader we will not be a leader.”

Dr Stansfield said many people often struggled with “imposter syndrome” – feeling like they are inadequate and not worthy of the role they are in despite evidence to the contrary.

“So much of ‘what if people laugh at me, what if they don’t like me’ stops people doing fantastic work,” she added.

The programme is now being rolled out to 60 health visitors in Liverpool to further analyse its effectiveness.

Gail Wilson, deputy clinical director and head of education at St Luke’s Hospice in Plymouth, spoke about how the charity is enabling nurse leaders to develop “informal networks” made up of a patient’s family, friends and neighbours to help them receive the care they need at home.

The charity carried out a study involving six terminally ill patients assigned to its crisis team.

The patients were supported to elect a group of people they trust in their community who were then empowered by the nurses to deliver certain care duties in the absence of a professional.

Ms Wilson said the project made it possible for all six patients to achieve their wish to die at home and resulted in no acute readmissions to hospital.

She said people in the informal networks found the experience positive although some were nervous about administering medication.

St Luke’s Hospice is now looking to extend the scheme to its district nursing service.

Ms Wilson said: “As demand for services increases we will not be able to meet all the need out there so we have to embrace and legitimise informal networks.”

The symposium also heard from Catherine Gamble and Kiran Jnagal from South West London and St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust who have launched a dedicated leadership programme for its black and minority ethnic (BME) nursing workforce in partnership with Kingston University.

Ms Jnagal admitted the trust was currently “very poor” on diversity but said it was working hard to redress it.

The pair presented a graph showing how BME nurses were starkly underrepresented in senior nursing roles compared to their white peers.

Out of the 36 nurses who completed the leadership course, 18 subsequently applied for a more senior role and 75% of those were successful.

Ms Jnagal said many of those nurses had told her they wouldn’t have gone for the job if it wasn’t for the course.

Karen Cleaver, head of family care and mental health faculty of education and health at the University of Greenwich, is leading on a research project around retention of nurses in their later careers.

Addressing the conference, Dr Cleaver said: “I have worked in London as a nurse for the last 40 odd years and I suppose maybe I come from a London-centric view but I know in London it’s particularly challenged in terms of the workforce crisis.

“At the moment we have more nurses leaving the register than joining and amongst those are older nurses.”

Early findings from the study show work flexibility is a key “pull factor” in keeping older nurses in the profession, while poor health and having time for family and friends were among the “push factors”.

Dr Cleaver said nurses with higher salaries were more likely to work for longer than those on lower wages.

A more surprising finding highlighted by Dr Cleaver was that nurses with caring responsibilities were more likely to carry on working beyond retirement age.

She concluded: “Organisations potentially have a huge role in retaining the high skilled workforce that we want to keep.”

Other presenters included Gemma Stacey and Aimee Aubeeluck from the University of Notthingham, and Jane Wray from the University of Hull, who are leading on projects around newly qualified nurse retention.

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