Roger Watson, Professor of Nursing at the University of Hull, shares his views on the problem of retaining nurses in todays staffing crisis.
Cast your mind back to a time when there was not a crisis in UK nursing…still thinking? If you were unable to recall such a time then neither was I, and I have been involved in nursing for over 40 years. We never have enough nurses in clinical practice and, whatever we do, nothing seems to work. There was a period in the 2000s when we recruited enormous numbers to university programmes (the ‘boom’) , until that proved too expensive and the government decided we could no longer sustain it (the ‘bust’) thus going, in the words of international nursing workforce expert Jim Buchan, from ‘boom to bust’. In any case, recruiting enormous numbers of students creates another problem: that of finding enough places in clinical practice to provide them with clinical experience. Any compromises on the quality of placements and the experience of the students is poor and they are ill-prepared for clinical practice.
Moreover, however many nursing students we recruit we seem to lose around 25% of them from programmes from entry to exit with some universities contributing a great deal more to that percentage than others. Then there is the problem of losing Registered Nurses from clinical practice. Nurses leave clinical practice for many reasons; clearly many retire but of those who retire, many retire early, burned out or physically and mentally injured from decades of clinical experience when they could still be contributing to patient care.
However, a more recent problem is the loss of newly qualified nurses from clinical practice. Precise numbers are hard to obtain but it is not uncommon to hear that ‘one in four’ newly qualified nurses leave within a year of registration. Some leave their place of work to assume a position elsewhere, but some are permanently lost to nursing and healthcare. I would like to take this opportunity to introduce you to a research project at my university, which is in its final year and funded by the Burdett Trust. The project is entitled 'Supporting the Transition and Retention of Newly Qualified Nurses' (the STaR project). Our aims are to try to find out who leaves nursing within their first year and why they do this and also to find out from nursing students, newly qualified nurses, NHS colleagues and higher education what they think works to maintain newly qualified nurses in practice. If you want to know about the project the please check our webpage and feel free to contribute to our blog. If you have a blog entry related to the retention of newly qualified nurses then email: email@example.com and please follow us on Twitter® @starnursehull.