Last week I spent a day at the Chief Nursing Officer for England’s Annual Conference (#TeamCNO) and whilst tweeting in the lead up to the conference I challenged Sam Sherrington and Kath Evans to write a blog about one thing that resonated with them during the conference. Kath has already written her blog post HERE … so this is mine …
I have for some time now been quite vocal that as nurses we need to take care of ourselves emotionally, mentally and physically so I was pleased to hear that as part of our new CNO Ruth Mays priorities (as set out in her key note speech to the conference) sits “a workforce fit for the future” … best summarised in these two WeNurses Tweets:
#teamCNO@RMayNurseDir says she has 3 essential priorities:
1 – a workforce fit for the future
2- protect, enhance and renew the reputation of the nursing profession
3 – speaking with one powerful collective voice— WeNurses (@WeNurses) March 13, 2019
Underneath the “workforce fit for the future” sat aspects such as recruitment, retention etc but it was the importance of the health and wellbeing of nurses that really made me sit up and listen. We all know that there are not enough nurses, we all know that we aren’t recruiting enough nurses, we all know that Brexit (yes i said the B word!!) will make the situation worse, we all know that nursing is stressful, we all know that nurses are under pressure every single day … so why do organisations not take better care of nurses, and support nurses to take care of themselves and their colleagues? It seems like common sense to me … to cherish the nurses we have, to care for them, to enable them to care for themselves….. however it’s perhaps easier said than done.
How do we ensure that we have a nursing workforce that is fit for the future on a practical level ? (No high brow strategy documents, forward views or dust collecting manifestos here !) Well this humble agency nurse turned social media nurse thinks the following would be a start:
- Ensure that nurses take a break – this is up to organisations, colleagues and us, as nurses. Taking our allocated breaks means we can eat properly, hydrate properly and rest properly. All contributing to our health and wellbeing.
- Stop archaic draconian rules such as “no water bottles on wards” – yes this still happens ! It’s vitally important that we stay hydrated, dehydration not only affects our short term health and concentration but can affect our long term health.
- Support nurses to exercise – some of this is nurses supporting each other and I can’t stress enough how things like #NursesActive and #NHS1000miles have supported me. Peer support is invaluable …. but so is employer support. Part of this is ensuring nurses have time off so that they can exercise but also encouraging things like active travel to work, taking the stairs, short organised walks during breaks, exercise groups after or before shifts etc.
- Support nurses to eat healthily – offering healthy option on staff canteens is just part of this I feel. Peer support and recipe sharing is another part … no one knows what it’s like to be a nurse better than other nurses. Cooking healthy meals for and after 12 hour shifts is challenging … wouldn’t it be great if organisations empowered nurses to recipe share and support one another ?
- Support nurses emotionally and look after their mental health – let’s make it the norm to be ok not to be ok. This isn’t about bouncing back, resilience or some other en-vogue speak … this is about nursing being tough and us acknowledging that. Let’s support one another to take 5 when we need it, let’s talk openly about not being ok, let’s ensure that nurses have downtime and rest days … and whilst we are at it let’s stop all those daft shift patterns that mean rapid changes from days to nights and back to days again.
(These are some thoughts off the top of my head, you may have different thoughts on how we can look after us … please feel free to share them, the more the merrier.)
So my concluding reflections following the CNO Conference are: Nurses are important, we need to recognise this. In order to have a workforce that is fit for the future I believe that we have to take action on a national level, an organisational level but also on an individual level …. there is so much we can do, we know this stuff, taking care of people is what we do … now we just have to apply that to ourselves !