The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) have published their findings from a survey of its member. Despite finding that their member’s passion has not wavered, there has been an increase in nurses considering leaving the profession.
The impact of the COVID-19 response seems to have taken its toll on nursing. Over half the respondents say that staff morale is now worse after the pandemic. This, alongside concerns about poor pay, seems to be causing many nurses to consider leaving the profession.
42,000 RCN members responded to the survey. They consist of private and NHS nurses, nursing support workers and students. The student responses were quite interesting as they traditionally work unpaid within the NHS throughout their training. However, during COVID-19, some students took paid employment roles to bridge the resource gaps. This, therefore, means that they were not receiving consistent hours or pay throughout this period.
More Unpaid Hours and Responsibilities
A third of respondents said that they were working more hours compared to before the pandemic. However, 40% of them also said that they were not being paid for those additional hours.
The majority of respondents found that their responsibilities remained consistent with those before the pandemic. However, 34% are working at a higher level of responsibility. Unfortunately, 90% of those are doing so without receiving any additional payment.
At Pryers, we have been concerned for some time that nurses are expected to work in harsh conditions to support a stretched NHS. So, a pandemic of COVID-19’s scale has inevitably increased the strain on the system. We have relied heavily on our nurse’s good nature, but patient safety must be considered, particularly when over a quarter (27%) said that they felt less able to take breaks during the pandemic.
Three quarters said that they feel more valued by the general public. However, this perceived value does not carry through from the government. In fact, only 18% stated that they feel more valued by the government despite the efforts of nursing staff during the pandemic.
Nearly three quarters said that improved pay would make them feel more valued, followed by better staffing levels and safer working conditions. Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) respondents appeared to be more concerned that their white colleagues about staffing levels (56% compared to 42%). This could be linked to the fact that BAME members are less likely to be paid for working additional hours, 48% compared to 39% for white members.
A Third of Nurses Considering Leaving the Profession
There are over 50,000 registered nurse vacancies across the UK. The Government strategy pre-COVID-19 was to retain 19,000 nurses who were planning to leave. This strategy appears to be at risk, as there has been a further increase in nurses considering leaving the profession. At the end of 2019, 27% were considering leaving, this has now increased to 35% who are considering leaving by the of 2020. This means that a third of those who responded are considering leaving, which equates to 14,000 people.
Most of those saying they might leave cite pay as a major factor. However, more than four in 10 say that the way they have been treated during the pandemic is also a factor. Staffing levels and lack of support are also considered.
RCN’s Strategy: Building a Better Future for Nursing
2020 is the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife, which is quite apt when we think of how the world has relied on the medical profession throughout the pandemic. It, therefore, feels relevant to demand improvements for the nursing profession as we come out of the worse of it.
Donna Kinnair, Chief Executive and General Secretary at RCN said in her foreword to the recent report; “This year must also be one of great change for our profession. In what became one of our highest engaged-with surveys ever, around 42,000 RCN members took the time to tell us what it will mean to feel valued after COVID-19. The responses have revealed just how our members have seen their professional lives changed by the pandemic. Tensions that were already there have been exacerbated with earlier sticking plasters no longer covering gaping holes.”
She continued; “As a union and professional body, we will use these findings to inform our action now and as we plan for the future, to ensure our profession is recognised for how it keeps people safe and provides support when our communities are most in need.
“The clapping is over. And now the Governments across the UK need to help our existing workforce and ensure that nursing is attractive, well-paid and meaningfully supported. This will equip all NHS and care services to keep patients safe. To get there, we need honest dialogue on the basis of the facts.”