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Taking care of the carers: retaining and attracting nursing staff

Posted by: Lynn Sedgwick

In the face of staff shortages, uncertainty over Brexit and the status of EU workers, and an aging population, the healthcare sector has faced significant challenges in recent years. Add to that the introduction of the special measures framework by the Care Quality Commission in 2013, and the pressure on front line staff has been mounting. Now more than ever management need to retain and attract highly trained staff.

Looking closer at the issues and their impact

To have the best chance of retaining and attracting nursing staff, hospitals, GP surgeries, and care homes need to have a clear understanding of how those challenges impact on their staff. 

The most prominent issue is a chronic shortage of staff. In September 2017, the Royal College of Nursing published their findings on Safe and Effective Staffing; among the various findings the most shocking is perhaps the statistic that 71% of those nurses surveyed reported that on their last shift, the ratio of patients to nurses exceeded levels recommended for safe care. The report makes for emotive reading and clearly shows the levels of stress felt by nurses when care is compromised due to staff shortages.

Closely linked with a shortfall of staff and compromised care is the negative media attention it attracts. The press often scrutinises issues in the NHS and pays particular attention when things go wrong. This interest is understandable, given that people’s lives are on the line, and the fact that the NHS is so tied up with government policy. Nonetheless, the negative attention takes its toll on staff morale.

How can you support nursing staff?

Perhaps the biggest challenge for any employer is that there are no quick or easy fixes to the problems faced by nurses. Positivity and focusing on the excellent work carried out can go a long way to raising staff morale.

In the face of staff shortages, it’s important to recognise that despite the difficult circumstances, patient care comes first. Nurses are in a caring profession and, as the report from the Royal College of Nursing suggests, have a desire to do their job of caring well. Show that you back your nurses on this and they will feel that their employer recognises the most fundamental part of their job. 

Emphasise the positives and play up successes and good news stories. This could mean sharing good news at handover meetings, praising individuals for good work or even inviting the media to events and fundraisers. Taking time to recognise positive outcomes will help your nurses feel valued in what they do.

Brexit: the shadow of uncertainty

With the health sector relying so heavily on migrant workers, the issues surrounding Brexit are particularly key when it comes to the retention of nursing staff. Opinions on whether numbers of EU nurses working in the UK are rising or falling are conflicting: the Guardian reports that numbers are falling sharply, while The Times suggests that the figures have not changed. Whichever way you interpret the evidence, the uncertain status of EU nationals in the UK puts stress on everyone, from patients to staff. Make it clear that whatever the legal status of migrant workers may be in the future, they are appreciated for the work they do in the here and now.

To retain and recruit the best staff is no easy task, especially in a climate of uncertainty, financial pressure and staff shortages. Making current staff feel that they have the support of management to do the best they can, and that there is recognition of that work, signals to nurses that yours is an organisation worth sticking with.

Contact us today to see how we can assist you with recruiting Nursing Specialists by calling us on 01772 259121 or Register a Vacancy directly.

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