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Sustaining working ability in the nursing profession - investigation of premature departure from work - (NEXT NURSES' EXIT STUDY)

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Recruitment and retention of nurses in England

Lack of human resources, particularly in nursing, has previously been identified as the most pressing problem facing the UK's National Health Service. There are now more strategies to attract and retain nurses in the UK than elsewhere, with important lessons for policy-makers abroad.

Health Health

The aim of the study was to examine the contribution of senior nurses responsible for retention and recruitment (RRNSs). This was conducted under the auspices of the European project NEXT NURSES' EXIT STUDY that investigated the phenomenon of premature departure from the profession. Data was obtained through telephone interviews which were transcribed and analysed by content. The RRNs were all clinically experienced nurses with regular clinical experience on the wards. As international recruitment declined, strategies were implemented to recruit locally. Because of the high expense involved only very senior or highly specialised nursing posts were advertised in the national press. Recruitment strategies for healthcare assistants were designed to reach individuals who might not have previously considered working in healthcare. Recruiters visited schools and FE colleges to discuss career opportunities in the NHS. Potential recruits were guided through the application and interview process and given information regarding training. Similar approaches were taken with student nurses. RRNSs discussed employment issues and career planning with students. Help was given to complete satisfactory curriculum vitae, filling in application forms and performing well at interviews. RRNSs operated an open door policy with newly qualified nurses intended to identify and tackle problems as they arose. Opportunities for continuing professional education featured heavily in retention strategies for these staff, with an emphasis on fairness and equity. RRNSs frequently mentioned experiencing inequity during their own early nursing careers and wanted to avoid this problem for the newly qualified nurses they hoped to retain. RRNSs focused on work-based learning for new registrants. This avoided the problem of covering the clinical areas when staff were attending courses. All the trusts required D grade nurses (the most junior) to demonstrate competency in fundamental clinical skills. Formal study programmes for new recruits were arranged by most postholders and new nurses were helped to develop peer support groups. Attracting and retaining experienced E grade nurses has proved challenging. A range of approaches was employed, including the holding of open days and advertising in the local press. The majority of RRNSs analysed exit questionnaires completed by nurses leaving the trust to identify their reasons for departure.

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