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  • 03 January 2023
  • 8 min read

Staff Retention & Improving Public Perception

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    • Richard Gill
    • Mat Martin
  • 0
  • 840
"I think if we as a community of healthcare professionals can improve the perception and the positivity that we would like the media and social media in particular to give, we could in fact actually encourage a lot more people to not only stay within nursing but also encourage more people to join the profession."

Jonathan shares his ideas on how to improve nurse wellbeing on the ward, how quickly public perception of the NHS can change, and how encouraging positivity around nursing can help with staffing levels.


I'd like to talk to you today about staffing.

There's lots of coverage at the moment in the media regarding pay and nurses about to strike, but I've got a few different opinions I'd like to perhaps go through with you today.

So obviously on the point of pay, we can't really escape it at the moment. It's in the news, it's on social media, it's all around our wards. It is everywhere.

We obviously all have the ability to change jobs if that's what you want to get further money.

We can strike.

I suppose a lot of people will argue that nurses are paid a very good wage already.

A counter argument to that would be how many people that get paid a similar amount in wages actually have people's lives in their hands?

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It’s Not All About Pay

I would like to slightly steer away from this particular side of things and look at a few other points that I think perhaps we could improve on within healthcare which actually could help with our staffing levels.

One in particular of mine, which is quite strong and quite close to my heart is sometimes on wards in particular when we have certain events which are quite emotional or quite intense, there is a need for debriefs and time to reflect.

With our staffing levels, we don't always have that.

Also, some wards don't really have anything in place. This in turn then can mean that the nurses don't get to offload and discuss the situation and explain their emotions. This in turn can lead to sickness, a bit of isolation, ultimately meaning that that staffing member may not be available for work, and this can happen quite a lot of times.

Positive Feedback Goes A Long Way

The other thing I would look at is how we work on praise and criticism on the wards.

You tend to notice that wards and certain managerial people who are very quick to point out when things aren't done correctly or if someone has done something that they would class as inappropriate.

However, on the flip side of that, you don't very often see or certainly less, see praise for individuals. Sometimes perhaps in handovers there could be a good time to highlight when something's been done well and when you've received praise.

We are all aware sometimes that patients' relatives may bring in cards and gifts and stuff. This would be an excellent time to actually reward the staff and actually show your appreciation to them.

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Promoting The Nursing Profession

Something that I personally am very keen to work on is how we promote nursing.

We are starting to see levels of applications to university drop.

I think if we as a community of healthcare professionals can improve the perception and the positivity that we would like the media and social media in particular to give, we could in fact actually encourage a lot more people to not only stay within nursing but also encourage more people to join the profession.

This is sometimes because of the cost of living, so that tends to affect the older generation. We are seeing a slight rise in sort of college students wanting to go to university, so that is rising, but the counterbalance probably means that staffing levels will remain low, and how can we affect this?

So there are groups out there that allow nurses to go and talk to college students, A level students, how to promote nursing, make it inclusive.

A Versatile And Dual Gender Profession

Obviously, from my perspective as a nurse and as a male nurse in particular, it's very important for me to get across to other young males that actually it's not a single gender profession anymore.

It is now a dual gender, so both females and males are now able to apply for nursing, and it's very good to show the students or potential students what is good about the job, but also making sure that they know the realities of the job.

It is hard. It is long hours. It's lots of studying, but it's also very rewarding.

You get to really impact people's lives, something that you can't do in every job, and you will find it very hard to explain the satisfaction and emotion until you do the job.

And it's quite humbling to be able to be there at different stages of people's lives, whether it be at birth, at death, during unprecedented times, accidents, recent outbreaks such as the COVID.

It's just so versatile.

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Public Perception

The last thing that I would like to look at and which I think is really important is how media and social media perceive nursing and how that really does affect staffing levels and potential staffing levels.

We were all very aware during the COVID pandemic that nursing was at the forefront. It was in the news headlines, the six o'clock news, social media, it was everywhere.

Finally, healthcare was actually being lauded for how good it was. It was that people were out on the Thursday evenings giving their claps. You saw brilliant moments in supermarkets where actually nurses were being bought for shopping. Not that I'm necessarily promoting that nurses should take handouts, but obviously the gesture is fantastic.

Post-Pandemic Views

However, since the COVID pandemic has I don't want to say gone away, but is more controlled and handled now, you're starting to see again in the press coverage, on the TV, in the newspapers, people's social media posts, suddenly in particular the NHS again is the devil. It's not liked.

This is because now we did such a fantastic job during COVID of doing the best we could in such a horrible situation that other things had to stop, and these things have now backed up.

So for example, operations, inundated with people that have got elective operations, which they're not able to have, scans that people are waiting for.

People need to be remembering that less people died because the nursing and healthcare staff were so good.

Challenging Public Opinion

So what I would like to say to people are maybe trying to challenge the media and people that you know that work in the media and say to them, why are you always putting the bad news on and not highlighting how good the nursing is, as you did with the COVID pandemic?

If you see your friends posting on social media saying, oh, I can't believe I've got to wait four weeks for an operation, or that nurse was really grumpy when they came to see me today, ask them, maybe challenge them even, say to them, "Would you want to do the job they do?" I think honestly, speaking from experience, a lot of people actually wouldn't want to do your job but are very happy to criticise it.

And I think if we as a community of healthcare professionals can improve the perception and the positivity that we would like the media and social media in particular to give, we could in fact actually encourage a lot more people to not only stay within nursing rather than leave for other professions and also encourage more people to join the profession.

Hopefully that's been really helpful to everyone watching.

And I'd like to think that my opinions have some validity, but obviously, as I say, it's only my opinions, and I look forward to seeing you all soon.

About the author

I qualified as an Adult nurse in September 2018 and took a job to work as a Trauma & Orthopaedic Nurse in the East of England. In August 2020 I left this role and went to the private sector briefly, but this did not work out. I am now currently working for NHS Professionals as a Registered Nurse in the East of England gaining experience around different specialties but can often be found on the Orthopaedic wards.

    • Richard Gill
    • Mat Martin
  • 0
  • 840

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