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Nursing must widen recruitment net to avoid crisis

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Nursing must tap into new sources of potential recruits if the profession is to head off a fresh recruitment crisis and achieve the government’s quality agenda, warn nurse researchers.

Nursing needs to recruit from more diverse age and ethnic groups, as well as trying to attract more men, according to a report from the National Nursing Research Unit at King’s College, London.

The Who wants to be a nurse? report, written by senior research fellows Jill Maben and Sarah Robinson, warns that nursing no longer attracts sufficient numbers of school leavers to fill the gap left by those currently moving through the profession.

‘Attracting and recruiting the best people into nursing is important to maintain and drive forward high-quality healthcare initiatives,’ the report said. ‘There will be an ongoing need to draw large numbers of talented people into nursing careers to deliver the next stage review’s vision of a “quality workforce”,’ it added.

The report highlighted the UK’s ‘ageing nursing workforce’, with up to 30% of it aged 50 or over, and said that based on recent projections there could be a possible shortfall of 14,000 nurses by 2011.  

This is supported by a separate RCN report, published last year, which estimated that 200,000 nurses were due to retire in the next 10 years, potentially leading to a staff shortage if more young people do not enter the profession.

However, further evidence, from a college survey published last week, suggests this necessary recruitment is unlikely without efforts to educate school children on the reality of modern nursing (p3).

A poll of more than 8,600 seven to 17-year-olds found that only one in 20 thought nursing was the right career for them, despite ‘helping people’ being one of the most important factors in choosing a career.

The RCN found that police officers, teachers, doctors and firefighters were seen as more preferable public sector jobs than nursing – many apparently being deterred by the ‘thought of blood’ and image of nursing being a ‘dirty job’.

In response to the findings, RCN general secretary Peter Carter, said: ‘It’s clear that the image of nursing does not reflect the reality. Modern nursing is a dynamic career, providing an incredibly broad range of opportunities and a real chance to have an interesting, successful career that makes a real difference to other people’s lives.’

‘Often older recruits join the profession after becoming disillusioned with seemingly more popular careers and wish they had done so years earlier. We want more young people to join the profession and experience all it has to offer earlier.’

But the King’s researchers suggested this might not be that straightforward. ‘Considerable effort will be required to change the image of nursing among future school leavers,’ they warned.

They recommend looking at different sources of recruits as well. For example, it states that ‘men could be a significant recruitment pool in the future if barriers to male recruitment could be overcome’ – though one of these barriers itself continues to be that nursing is a female dominated profession. 

Additionally, it said that nursing appeared to be an attractive career prospect ‘for some but not all’ members ofblack and minority ethnic groups, and that increased recruitment of BME students could help improve representation of minority ethnic workers in the NHS.

‘Promotional campaigns need to be more tailored to attract workers in mid-life; male entrants, ethnic minority students and other non-traditional entrants,’ the report said.

Additionally the report warned that the move to an all-graduate entry profession could see a change in the type of candidate considering nursing as a career. It said that 31% of current entrants to the profession could be excluded from degree-level entry into nursing by their level of education.

However it also noted that degree-level programmes could attract a new pool of potential recruits – people who had previously rejected nursing because they would not obtain a degree.

To attract this new pool, the report suggested course recruiters would need to draw more attention to the potential for taking on leadership and advanced roles in modern nursing.

It stated: ‘Non-visible aspects of nursing (intellectual and decision-making) need to be more identifiable to potential recruits through school careers advice, social networking and early career experiences.’

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Readers' comments (2)

  • Recruitment is one issue but retention on courses is a big issue with pressure during the courses for both academic and placements much higher than the pressure on other undergraduate students

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  • The first poster is right. Sort out the issues that force people off their courses, and the 'crisis' will sort itself out.

    How about paying us a decent salary for a start. At least £11,000 a year is a good start instead of the paltry £5000 or £6000, it might allow people to afford to live whilst studying.

    Sort out the problems with academic and placement support. How many students drop out because they are strung out and put through the mill by academic and nursing staff.

    These are just two suggestions of course, there are many more ...

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