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Nurses' health and wellbeing needs attention, PM's commission is told


Nurses need more help to become healthy role models, the Prime Minister’s Commission on the Future of Nursing and Midwifery in England has been told.

The commission listened to the views of staff and patients from around the country at an event in London, where discussions focussed on 10 themes including improving the health and wellbeing of nurses and midwives.

Speaking after the private event, health minister and commission chair Ann Keen told Nursing Times there had been a “clear consensus” that staff wanted managers to help them with their own physical and mental health.

She said: “They certainly wanted to see that nurses and midwives have proper breaks, that they have got support for their own health.

“They were concerned that they were role models of health and the pressures of that - that they should have really good health themselves, recognising they’re human beings.”

In addition to demanding proper breaks, staff at the event wanted workplaces to provide good occupational health services, appropriate training and fitness facilities.

Not all staff related to the statement in the commission’s vision calling nurses and midwives “ordinary people doing extraordinary things,” Ms Keen said.

But she stood by the phrase, saying: “Becoming a nurse was the hardest test I’ve ever done…I don’t know of any other group that actually gives that extent of themselves.”

She did not think the list of hot topics or the wording of the vision statement would need to be adjusted in light of the event, but said the other commissioners may disagree.

“I still think we’re definitely on the right track,” she said.

The commission was due to meet on Friday, two days after the event was held.

The Queen’s Nursing Institute practice development manager Anne Pearson said the discussions appeared to back up findings from a survey carried out by the institute last year.

The survey showed levels of health and stress among nurses were mainly affected by the way employees were managed and supported, rather than the demands of the job.

Ms Pearson said: “Sometimes we’re our own worst enemies because we tend to do all we can for our patients but we need to look after ourselves too. 

“It’s about cooperation between managers and staff, to try to identify potential problems and address them.”


Readers' comments (5)

  • With increases in behaviour-related health problems (eg obesity, type 2 diabetes, binge-drinking) it's more importanat than ever that nurses are healthy role models. Unfortunately, for too many nurses having a knowledge of the relationships between lifestyle bahaviours and health doesn't seem to make a difference.
    Where I work the majority of staff and students are overweight, some clinically obese, excessive alcohol consumption and a high-fat, high-carb diet are seen as normal.
    How effective can we be as facilitators of health-promoting behaviours if it's a case of "Do as I say, not as I do"?
    Or is it, for most, simply a case of failure to recognise the long-term consequences - as in "it'll never happen to me!"

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  • I absolutely agree with the above comments. But to continue the argument, I think managers and trusts have a responsibility too.

    Little things like not making people work too many night shifts without adequate turnaround, allowing us to do alternate weeks of earlys and then lates, instead of a late shift then an early then a late then a night (we need a life away from work too!!!) And not quibbling too much when we choose our holidays.

    Allowing us adequate time off work is essential for us to work effectivel when we are there!

    Also provide enough of the right staff on each shift so that we don't burn out.

    Get rid of the bullying, nasty, bitchy culture that pervades nursing...

    Need I go on?

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  • Playing devils advocate maybe the fitness to practice should be just that, with an annual health check inclusive of being able to deal with the rigours of the profession?

    I like the next person enjoys the occasional treat, but it should be just that and support and structure from employers in promoting the healthy lifestyle needs to be included in the employment package offered.

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  • It is a little bit of a joke though isn't it? Most nurses I have seen are overweight, smoke like chimneys, binge drink etc. One student even happily went outside to smoke with other staff members although she was heavily pregnant. It's like a sketch from that comedy (the name of which I can't remember) with the really fat weight watchers woman, telling them all to stop eating junk while she wobbles around.

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  • Also, going on from last comment, totally agree with post on 28th October 7:40pm

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