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OPINION

‘The response to nurse vacancies must be sustainable’

Bev Matthews
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Headlines about nurse vacancies hitting more than 40,000 are alarming. Collectively, we must share the responsibility of finding solutions but these numbers can be overwhelming and disconnected. We must work with frontline staff to ensure the response is meaningful and sustainable

We have been responding to the important issues of recruitment and retention by working at personal, local and regional as well as national level. At Nursing Now England – previously known as Transforming Perceptions of Nursing and Midwifery – we have created a social movement through a collaborative approach, campaigning to improve health globally by raising the status and profile of nursing; demonstrating what it can achieve and enabling nurses to maximise their contribution to achieving universal health coverage.

Initial think-tanks with key stakeholders across the system identified three main groups that are considered vital to increasing recruitment and retention. These are young people in the school system and those who influence their career choices, those in current practice and returning to practice, and decision-makers and influencers in the wider care system

Since launching the programme in 2017, nurses and midwives have been responding to the need to build positive perceptions of the profession, enhanced by the national TV and social media campaign #WeAreTheNHS. More than 2,000 ambassadors are now leading the local version of the campaign. The original ambassadors were identified by chief nurses, heads of midwifery and directors of nursing nominating inspiring individuals, who were energised to be a link between their organisation and the campaign. This approach has been invaluable for ensuring the ambassador is given the time and support to be successful.

The ambassadors – all either registered, students or retired nurses and midwives – have been working through 30-day challenges, which respond to different aspects of 10 ‘building blocks’ designed from ideas submitted to our crowdsourcing site by thousands of nurses, midwives and patients. The 12 monthly challenges are all about people working together to help put these building blocks into action.

Nursing Now England

Bev Matthews

Bev Matthews

Ambassadors have been building allies and gathering momentum as they moved from being reserved but keen, shy but confident and proud but tired, to inspire colleagues and teams to get involved. Seeing them take to social media to share their success with a confidence for leadership has been inspiring to watch.

January’s 30-day challenge asks ambassadors to talk to young people about our extraordinary career. Many are planning to visit schools, while others are planning activities within their local community. Some ambassadors have existing contacts, but many more have joined Inspiring the Future – our partner for this month’s challenge. The charity builds connections between volunteers and schools and looks for people to talk about their career, giving every young person in state education the opportunity to be inspired and motivated.

There is a need for a focus on some key areas, including mental health and learning disability nursing, recruiting people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds and reflecting on the importance of skills and values, rather than age or gender. We will also be launching Transforming Perceptions of Midwifery on 23 January.

Get involved by signing up to the 30-day challenges. Join the Facebook group to gain support and encouragement to create your own local networks for building positive perceptions of nursing.

Bev Matthews is transformation associate, NHS Horizons and Nursing Now England.

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