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Each Thursday evening when the public ‘clap the carers’, many will have in mind the image of the selfless, caring nurse.
Today is International Nurses’ Day and we celebrate nursing staff across our hospitals.
“The NHS nurse of 2020 is much more than a caring presence at the patient’s bedside”
The respect and affection that all nurses enjoy amongst the public has never been in doubt, but it’s definitely been strengthened by Covid-19.
However, the NHS nurse of 2020 is much more than a caring presence at the patient’s bedside.
Nursing is a career. The term reflects both commitment and dedication but also how the role has evolved over the last 20 to 30 years.
When I qualified as a nurse the choices were staying on the wards (or in the GP practice or theatres) or abandoning regular patient contact and turning to management.
The choices available to nurses building a career today are so different.
The rise of roles such as advanced clinical nurse practitioners, together with the chance to assume additional responsibilities such as nurse prescribing, have transformed nursing career paths over the last three decades.
Nurses in these new roles – together with the thousands of their colleagues providing care and treatment in our wards and theatres – derive the satisfaction and sense of achievement that can only come from caring for people who are sick or vulnerable.
The recent merger of our three acute hospital trusts to form Mid and South Essex Foundation Trust is also opening up new opportunities for nurses and midwives – and this includes the next generation of nurses studying at local universities across our region.
They must be encouraged to inspire and innovate and look at how they can change our profession with fresh ideas that will benefit patients.
The NHS Plan published in 2019 emphasised that a sustainable NHS needs new ways of working – both in terms of care models and its staff.
“We should recognise that they are highly skilled clinical professionals – as well as the caring face of the NHS”
The interim NHS People Plan published shortly afterwards recognised that nurses are the foundation of that change.
It said that “nurses form a critical part of the multi-professional team needed to deliver the NHS Long Term Plan”. After all, nurses and midwives have been the largest component of the NHS workforce since its birth in 1948.
The profession will continue to evolve over the coming years and decades.
Today, as we reflect on – and celebrate – the contribution of nurses to the NHS and our society, we should recognise that they are highly skilled clinical professionals – as well as the caring face of the NHS.
Diane Sarkar is chief nursing officer, Mid and South Essex University Hospitals Group