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Respiratory nurses concerned about their future role and job security

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VOL: 102, ISSUE: 46, PAGE NO: 52

Angela Hurlstone, is ARNS secretariat manager and assistant to chief executive of BTS; Sam Prigmore, MSc, BSc, RGN, is nurse consultant, St George?s Hospital, Tooting; Liz Walkers, MSc, RGN, is respiratory nurse specialist, Queen Alexandra Hospital, Portsmouth

Respiratory nurses have concerns about their future role and job security, according to a recent survey carried out by the Association of Respiratory Nurse Specialists.

 

Respiratory nurses have concerns about their future role and job security, according to a recent survey carried out by the Association of Respiratory Nurse Specialists.

 

 

With the current pressures facing specialist nurses and the focus on community-based services, it has become evident that many ARNS members have been asked to undertake duties that fall outside their normal roles.

 

 

In March 2006, an email questionnaire was sent to the ARNS membership asking whether they had been asked to work in areas outside of their specialist roles, including wards and outpatients.

 

 

At that time, approximately 40% of those who responded indicated that they had been asked to undertake such duties, with a further 10% indicating that they felt that it was in the pipeline.

 

 

In August, a further survey of the ARNS membership highlighted the growing concerns that specialist nurses are being asked to carry out duties that remove them from their specialists roles.

 

 

While the response rate represents around 20% of the membership, it offers a valuable insight of a significant number of members.

 

 

Of the 380 ARNS members, 88 responded to the questionnaire. Thirty-four respondents indicated that they had been asked to undertake other duties. Some had been asked occasionally to work in areas outside their specialty. Some also stated that they had been asked to work more frequently, including one or two shifts per month or one or two days per week and, in one instance, a nurse had been asked to work continuously on a general medical ward for four weeks.

 

 

Areas outside their area of expertise that respiratory specialists had been asked to cover included diabetes, acute medicine, discharge, dermatology, gynaecology and elderly services, and one respondent said that she had been placed on the permanent redeployment register.

 

 

Another interesting finding was that, of the 88 respondents, 33 indicated that they believed their jobs were under threat. A further 29 stated that within their units respiratory nurse duties and respiratory service had been cut and another 26 indicated there had been specialist nurse redundancies at their trusts. One nurse said that she was feeling threatened by the community matrons as her community work had been significantly reduced since community matron roles started.

 

 

Another comment reflected concern about the dilution of the specialist respiratory nurse role to that of a pair of hands on a ward, in some instances to cover shortfalls in bank and agency cover. Another member stated that her job would cease to exist from the end of September. The trust has refused to make her redundant and she has been placed on the redeployment register.

 

 

Despite the pressures facing respiratory nurse specialists, most respondents still felt that they had job satisfaction and rated it as 7 or above (10 being the highest). Nurses based in the primary care sector gave the most encouraging feedback, with a high job satisfaction rating and generally felt less vulnerable about the security of their posts.

 

 

Other comments received in the general feedback section included: ‘I think we are seen as an expensive option;’ ‘Two trusts have merged, 1,400 jobs are going of which 460 will be nurses;’ ‘We are pressured to discharge patients from outpatients and inpatients, often when they are not ready to leave hospital, yet again nurses pay for financial dilemmas.’

 

 

One nurse said that in the absence of specialist support, general nurses were being asked to carry out respiratory nurse specialist roles with no specialist training and another comment reflected the frustration she felt that her specialist skills were being wasted when she was asked to cover ward duties.

 

 

If you have any comments on this survey email eileen.shepherd@emap.com.

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