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'2016: I can’t imagine a year that had more upheaval'

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What a year 2016 has been for nursing. We’ve seen the removal of the bursary, changing the way that education of student nurses is funded forever.

We are yet to see the implications of that in the number and make-up of those applying to train to become nurses. But early indications suggest that it will have reduced the numbers who want to go into this profession.

The introduction of the nursing associate role will see the pilot sites and fast followers unveil how they will use this new team member to support the registered nurse early in the new year. The Nursing and Midwifery Council will make a decision on whether it will agree to the health secretary’s request that it will regulate the new role.

“I suspect that 2017 will continue in this same vein”

And finally, we’ll see the continued impact of Brexit on the nursing workforce, and hopefully see some positive attempts to reassure our vital workforce from overseas that they can and should remain to carve out nursing careers for themselves here. Because if we don’t, I am not quite sure how the workforce could survive.

I can’t imagine a year that had more upheaval, more change and more doubt, all against a backdrop of continuing financial challenge and a workforce crisis that is deepening. I suspect that 2017 will continue in this same vein, and I might be making the same observations in 12 months.

“I don’t just mean rolling up their sleeves and going bare below the elbow for a day”

Sometimes I think that those who create policy and make changes to nursing in the process should really see it from the frontline nurses’ perspectives. And I don’t just mean rolling up their sleeves and going bare below the elbow for a day. I mean doing a night shift for five days straight, running a busy out-patient clinic, working in A&E over a weekend, coping with an overstuffed district nurse caseload, trying to keep residents in a care home safe and well with an ever-decreasing supply of nurses to support you in these endeavours.

Nurses seem to be always asked the impossible, and yet, because they are nurses and are used to making do, somehow they find a way through.

“There’s a lot to be said for arguing the evidence, making a fuss and standing up for yourself”

There’s a lot to be said for that skill and that resilience. One would argue they are core components of what makes a successful nurse. But there’s a lot to be said for arguing the evidence, making a fuss and standing up for yourself when attacks are made to your pay, your conditions, your pension you’ve worked hard for and decisions are made that would disadvantage your patients, their families and carers, or your clients and service users.

2017 promises to be a tricky year for nursing. But it is one where I hope nurses will have a voice. I hope that we hear more than just the silence we’ve heard over the vital issues in recent months. Because nursing is about making sure the patient is heard, but to do that effectively, you’ve got to be heard yourself.

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