The last five months have taken their toll on the nursing workforce. And we know that there is more to come. Whilst we are developing the ‘next normal’ in our health and social care services and planning for the second wave, it is so important for nurses to take a break from work and concentrate on our personal and social lives.
In our profession, we often minimise the personal impact of the care we provide and the trauma we witness. Supporting patients in the last days and hours of their lives without their loved ones close by would have been unthinkable in 2019, but it is firmly in the narrative of the pandemic and it is nurses who have managed these situations with compassion and innovation to provide the best end of life care possible.
The DHSC was quick to recognise this and to ensure there were opportunities for support and counselling in place for all staff working during the pandemic, including dedicated assistance available from the Samaritans. The QNI responded by creating the ‘TalkToUs’ listening service, enabling any nurse working in health or social care in the community to access emotional support and signposting to other services such as counselling.
Since its creation, the TalkToUs trained listeners have taken calls from nurses working in a range of services who have witnessed distressing situations that they have never experienced before – often these are senior nurses with long careers in the NHS. One of the patterns we have seen is the lack of support for the nurses in the work environment – a combination of what appears to be inexperienced managers and absence of a culture of compassion.
It is good then that the recently published NHS People Plan recognises the importance of caring for its workforce. The pandemic has highlighted the need to look after staff but a caring culture is sadly lacking in some corners of the NHS.
The People Plan focuses on four areas:
● Looking after our people particularly the actions we must all take to keep our people safe, healthy and well – both physically and psychologically.
● Belonging in the NHS highlighting the support and action needed to create an organisational culture where everyone feels they belong.
● New ways of working and delivering care emphasising that we need to make effective use of the full range of our people’s skills and experience to deliver the best possible patient care.
● Growing for the future particularly by building on the renewed interest in NHS careers to expand and develop our workforce, as well as retaining colleagues for longer.
These themes resonate with the work of the QNI, which extends beyond the NHS into social care, criminal justice and charitable services - and as we develop our new strategy 2021-2025 in the coming months, we will be reflecting on the People Plan and how we can play our part in its successful delivery.