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Improving image of nursing ‘crucial’ to attracting and retaining staff, says deputy CNO

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How the nursing and midwifery professions are perceived needs to be improved in schools, among the public and the media, and also within the current workforce itself, according to a nurse leader.

In a new blog, NHS England’s director of nursing called on both healthcare professionals and the public to help improve “perceptions” of nursing and midwifery.

“Shaping a consistently positive image of nursing is something we all agree is crucial”

Hilary Garrett

The article, published today, comes as latest figures collected by the BBC add to previous warnings that fewer nurses are joining the register – and consequently the NHS – than leaving it.

Hilary Garrett warned there was currently “confusion and a lack of clarity” about how to become a nurse or midwife, and “poor knowledge” of the range of opportunities that come with such careers.

In addition, there was a need to “bolster the nursing voice” in the development of health policy, stated Ms Garrett, who is also deputy chief nursing officer for England.

For example, she highlighted the ongoing need for nurses to be considered as professionals “equal to all others in healthcare”, such as doctors, as well as enabling them to be involved in key decisions.

Noting that it was the 70th anniversary of the NHS this year, she said: “We want to celebrate the vital contribution that nurses and midwives have made to its success, and how the profession has evolved over the decades. We must also ensure we are fit for the future challenges.”

“There is confusion and a lack of clarity about how to become a nurse or midwife”

Hilary Garrett

She added: “Shaping a consistently positive image of nursing is something we all agree is crucial to help attract and retain staff, but will also ensure nurses and midwives are in a position to influence policy decisions… not least at a time of change and reform in the NHS.”

She noted that CNO for England Professor Jane Cummings spoke about the issue of needing to promote the professions at her summit in March last year.

It was required to ease workforce “challenges”, increase entry routes and ensure that perception “matches the reality”, said Ms Garrett, who noted that work had already begun at a national level.

“Over the last six months, we’ve been actively engaging with nursing staff, alongside our key partners and stakeholders such as professional bodies, patients academic, students and health organisations,” she said.

She highlighted that this had included a national workshop attended by 70 people and contributions through social media, such as so-called Twitter chats.

“We identified there is confusion and a lack of clarity about how to become a nurse or midwife, and poor knowledge of the range of opportunities that come with nursing and midwifery as careers, particularly among young people,” she said.

As a result, she said there was a need to improve perceptions of the profession across educational environments – from primary schools through to adult learning – within the current nursing and midwifery workforce, and among key influencers such as the public, politicians and the media.

In order to “shape specific projects” that will sit under each of these three categories, Ms Garrett said she wanted to “hear from as many nurses and midwives as possible”.

“We will be sharing more details of this ongoing engagement in the coming months2

Hilary Garrett

For example, on education, she highlighted questions such as how to encourage young schoolchildren to see nursing as a “fantastic career choice” and how teachers could promote it.

On current nurses and midwives, she cited questions such as how to “maintain the passion” that nurses and midwives felt when they first qualified and how to maintain “pride” in the profession.

She also asked for ideas on how to change the way nurses and midwives were “recognised so they are seen as a core profession equal to all others in healthcare”, and how to create an environment where nurses and midwives were more involved on key decisions about healthcare.

The views on such issues that were generated via Twitter would be reviewed by a panel of students, senior leaders, academics and representatives from third sector organisations, noted Ms Garrett.

She added: “We will be sharing more details of this ongoing engagement in the coming months, including at a dedicated session by Jane Cummings at the CNO Summit In March that will celebrate how nursing and midwifery in the NHS over the past seven decades.”

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Readers' comments (3)

  • The introduction of the nursing associate undermines the role of the registered general nurse yet the nursing hierarchy actively promote the new role.

    How can Hilary Garrett call on others to promote the profession at the same time as allowing nursing to be belittled and undervalued.

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  • A good way to improve the image of nursing is to get rid of our image as working like donkeys for little more than subsistence wages. How to do that? Easy: raise our pay. Raise it enough and we'll see people fighting for places on nursing courses.

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  • In some working environments, if nurses are disrespectful, even dismissive to their fellow colleagues, how do you educate and promote professionalism?

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