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Why are you a nurse?

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  • Pay and conditions are poor, so development is essential to retain our nurses
  • Cutting post-registration funding will only deepen the retention crisis
  • Nurses have an appetite for increasing their skills and knowledge

What makes people want to be a nurse? Nurses often tell me it was not a choice, but a vocation, a calling – the need to care for those who needed you most. But when things get difficult, what keeps people in the profession besides the desire to do the right thing for your patients and those you care for?

Well the pay and conditions were probably not the motivator. Everyone who signed up to be a nurse knew they were never going to be rich beyond their wildest dreams. In fact, just earning a decent living would be considered beyond the wildest dreams of some working in the profession. But one of the incentives of being a nurse was the access to CPD. The ability to gain more clinical expertise and deepen or broaden your learning made this a career worth having. Being able to develop yourself made nursing appealing.

So in the midst of a dire recruitment and retention crisis for nursing, post-registration training funding has been cut, making securing finances to pay for continuing education pretty difficult.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council stipulates that nurses do 35 hours of CPD every three years as part of PREP, now replaced by revalidation, but trusts have very little money to pay for that education.

It seems tragic that when directors of nursing are struggling to fill their rosters, we are taking away something else that has traditionally always helped nurses want to, well, remain nurses.

It feels almost like a conspiracy. As the NMC is attempting to ensure the professionalism and skills of registrants is well documented and publicised, the government is cutting the funding because it just costs too much to have well-trained, skilled nurses. False economy? I think so!

The money may have gone, but nurses still have a desire to update their knowledge and training. At the last three Nursing Times Careers Live events we’ve done this year and last year (in London and Bristol), the free-to-attend content sessions that I have chaired have been filled with nurses at all stages of their careers, but predominantly band 5s. What unifies them all is that they are all thirsty for knowledge. They’ve flooded the room to find out more about how to revalidate, what to say to a CQC inspector, how to become a ward sister and how to manage your career. What I’ve learnt is that nurses want to know how to do a good job for their patients, and they will travel the length and breadth of the country to do that.

Seeing that hunger for knowledge on how to do their jobs better inspired us to start our Nursing Times Team Leaders’ event (which is designed for those new to management at ward sister level or the community equivalent). We want these nurses to recognise how great their influence is over the standards of care in their organisations. Nurses have the power to change the way a patient, resident or service user is cared for. But we need to top up their knowledge to ensure they are up to date and supported to do the best job they can.

The demand for free or cost-effective CPD that guides and influences nurses to be better carers and better leaders of care is enormous. I have seen that first hand. Cutting the funding for nurse training is a false economy. We need to retain a bright, enthusiastic nursing workforce that is passionate about caring for patients, and the only way to do that is to care for and about our nurses.

Our next Nursing Times Careers Live events are on October 15 in Leeds and November 12 in London.

The inaugural Team Leader’ Congresss is on October 10 in Birmingham.

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