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Associate feature: It's time to take staff wellbeing seriously

Theresa Fyfe

Associate feature: It's time to take staff wellbeing seriously

In our recent survey of RCN members in Scotland, 46 per cent of respondents told us that, despite all the problems in our health and social care services, they would still recommend nursing as a career.

It’s an astonishing statistic when you do some of the arithmetic. For example, in the NHS - the largest employer of nursing and midwifery staff – there are almost 4,000 posts unfilled, that’s a vacancy rate of around six per cent. Of those vacancies, more than 1,000 have been vacant for three months or more. In the independent sector, Scottish Care estimate that nearly a fifth of care home nurse posts for registered nurses are vacant, with nursing posts taking between six and eight months to fill but sometimes up to two years. 

Wherever nursing staff are employed, working in such a depleted workforce is like having an arm and a leg tied behind your back. 

In the same RCN survey, respondents said they were under too much pressure, too busy to provide the level of care they would like and felt undervalued. All in all, it’s a bleak picture and it’s taking an increasingly heavy toll on the wellbeing of nursing staff as they do not have the time to look after themselves. 

One respondent told us: “We maintain a high standard of care in the area where I work but only because staff are prepared to go the extra mile and work through lunch breaks or work late to ensure care is not compromised.”

Another said: “I was off with stress and was contacted every second day with a view to going back. I feel pressured and had to return before mentally ready. I feel physically stressed before during and after my shift and worry that things can be missed.” 

Nursing staff know all too well about the impact of an unhealthy lifestyle. Day in, day out, they see what not eating or hydrating properly, drinking or smoking too much, or not getting enough exercise does to people.

It is time to start helping nursing staff take better care of themselves. The RCN is taking a lead through campaigns and resources such as ‘Healthy Workplace’ and ‘Rest, Rehydrate, Refuel’, designed to help our members take control of their wellbeing.

The World Health Organisation has declared 2020 the year of the nurse and midwife and we will be using this to encourage others to follow our lead and work with us to change the picture for our under-pressure nursing staff.

The report of the RCN Scotland Employment Survey was published on 28 November.

With over 40,000 members in Scotland the RCN is the voice of nursing

Theresa Fyfe is the Director of the Royal College of Nursing, Scotland

This piece was sponsored by the RCN

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