I wrote this on a rainy Tuesday afternoon while on a train to Birmingham. It was a little cramped as I had to move from my reserved table seat because the air conditioning was broken in coach E.
The five minutes I spent in there felt like 50 minutes in a hot house – and hot houses aren’t the ideal environment when you’re wearing a business suit.
I was travelling to the Midlands for two reasons. First, Nursing Times launched its first-ever Directors’ Network event in the evening of 12 March, giving a group of directors of nursing the opportunity to discuss the challenges they face – and some potential solutions.
These included the obvious problem of nurse recruitment and retention, as well as long-standing topics like advanced practice roles, new developments such as nursing associates and apprenticeships and even newer ones like the NHS Long Term Plan and the evolving nature of the national bodies that oversee the NHS in England.
“We need to ensure there is a pipeline of leaders coming through and that the right people are not put off climbing the career ladder”
I felt it was high time we gathered some nurse leaders from around the country in a room where they could talk about these issues with their peers, without fear of judgment or censure. The job of nursing director one of those where it is easy to become isolated, with a trust board to answer to and much responsibility, usually involving staffing and patient safety.
There are some truly inspirational nursing directors out there – perhaps yours is one – as I can confirm from hearing them speak at Nursing Times’ events.
But we need to ensure there is a pipeline of leaders coming through and that the right people are not put off climbing the career ladder, and don’t leave the profession because of the pressures of the job. That is why I hope our network and similar events can help – a problem shared etc…
The other reason I am in Birmingham is to attend the chief nursing officer’s summit, which is taking place here today and tomorrow. This is another first in that it will be Ruth May’s inaugural summit since taking up the role of CNO for England in January.
It will be her opportunity to set out her stall as CNO, with the long-term plan and its separate workforce element likely to feature heavily in the official programme and also informally in conversation. I suspect the impact of Brexit on the nursing and the NHS in general, plus the chancellor’s spring statement, may also get a mention.
The summit should be a different type of hot house to my train carriage, namely an “intense activity, especially intellectual or emotional activity”, as the Collins English Dictionary defines it – though hopefully not too emotional.
Like our new network, it will be an opportunity for nurse leaders to discuss the serious issues currently affecting the profession and to decide some policy direction for the long term.
Those present must grasp this vital chance to get to grips with the assorted challenges that face nursing, including the workforce crisis. While there was a slight fall in the vacancy rate at the end of 2018, we remain almost 40,000 nurses short of what is needed – and that is without looking at individual specialties, some of which are really struggling.
So, I have had two different types of hot house experience this week, one literal and the other more metaphorical. I know which one I prefer.
I hope that by this time next week we will have a better idea where nursing is going in the years to come, so that the green shoots of recovery can start to grow and then flourish. The alternative is less pleasant.