Servizio Comunitario di Informazione in materia di Ricerca e Sviluppo - CORDIS

England: The role of recruitment and retention nurses in England

Five years ago the National Health Service Plan presented a raft of initiatives to improve standards of health care in the UK. Lack of human resources was recognised as the most pressing problem, especially in nursing. Consequently, there are now more strategies to attract and retain nurses in the UK than elsewhere, with important lessons that can be shared with policy-makers in other countries.

The aim of this study was to examine the contribution of senior nurses responsible for retention and recruitment (RRNSs).

Data were collected by telephone. Interview transcripts were transcribed and analysed by content.

92 (59%) of the trusts (N=156) employed a member of staff responsible for nursing recruitment and retention. In 36 (39%) trusts this was an RRNS, 29 agreed to participate. The employing trusts provided acute services in rural, urban and inner city areas across England.

The RRNSs were all clinically experienced nurses who still worked regularly on the wards to maintain clinical competence. Most had been appointed on the basis of their good local knowledge of the trust and their interpersonal skills.

As international recruitment declined, RRNSs were implementing strategies to recruit and retain staff locally. Their work appeared to be highly labour intensive, but avoided advertisements in the national press which were regarded as expensive and unnecessary except for posts requiring very senior or highly specialized nurse.

Healthcare assistants:
Recruitment strategies were designed to reach people who might not have considered working in the health care sector. RRNSs had developed and maintained a wide network of contacts in touch with eligible applicants and went into schools and colleges of further education to discuss career opportunities in the NHS. Potential recruits were guided through the application and interview process and given information about training. Work experience was sometimes arranged and discussions were held on parents’ evenings in schools.

Student nurses:
The same types of approach were used to inform potential student nurses, their parents and careers advisors about careers in nursing. RRNSs liaised with university staff to encourage their students to seek employment in nearby trusts. Many visited students during timetabled classroom hours to discuss employment issues and career planning. During the final year students were invited to visit the trust so they could see what it had to offer. Informal talks were held to provide information about the different clinical areas where suitable vacancies were expected and to discover which would be of interest to particular individuals. Formal input included help completing satisfactory curriculum vitae, filling in application forms and performing successfully at interview. By the time they registered, most RRNSs felt they knew potential recruits well enough to conduct a fast-track system of recruitment. The process was kept as brief as practical with streamlining to reduce the length of time between application and interview. It was usual for large numbers of interviews to be conducted on the same day. These initiatives were reported as successful. RRNSs in different parts of the country claimed they no longer had vacancies for newly qualified D grade nurses.

Newly qualified nurses:
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 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 and was deemed most appropriate for individuals whose student preparation was considered to have emphasised academic achievement at the expense of practical skills:

In all trusts D grade (the most junior) nurses were required to demonstrate competency in fundamental clinical skills. Most postholders arranged formal study programmes for newly qualified recruits. They enabled new nurses to develop peer support groups and had set up preceptorship schemes. Many RRNSs also organised schemes allowing new registrants to rotate through different clinical areas. There was little evidence of collaboration with university staff when organising continuing professional education for new registrants.

Experienced nurses:
Attracting and retaining experienced E grade nurses was challenging. A range of approaches was used, including holding open days and placing advertisements in local newspapers. Most RRNSs scrutinised exit questionnaires completed by nurses leaving the trust to identify reasons for departure.

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Philpot Street
United Kingdom
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