Improving the image of nursing and midwifery

NHS England’s Director of Nursing and Deputy Chief Nursing Officer for England calls on professionals and members of the public to help improve perceptions of nursing and midwifery:

As the NHS marks its 70th birthday, we want to celebrate the vital contribution that nurses and midwives have made to its success, and how the profession has evolved over the decades. But we must also ensure we are fit for the future challenges that face the NHS.

Shaping a consistently positive image of nursing is something we all agree is crucial to help attract and retain staff, but will also ensure nurses and midwives are in a position to influence policy decisions that affect the health and wellbeing of people in England, not least at a time of change and reform in the NHS.

Professor Jane Cummings spoke about our aims to promote nursing and midwifery at last year’s Chief Nursing Officer summit, to help ease workforce challenges including predicted retirement rates over the next five years, to increase routes into nursing and to ensure that the perception of the profession matches the reality: high-status careers with limitless opportunities, offering massive job satisfaction and value for society.

Over the last six months, we’ve been actively engaging with nursing staff, alongside our key partners and stakeholders such as professional bodies, patients academic, students and health organisations. This has included a national workshop attended by 70 people and contributions through social media such as Twitter chats.

Through this work, we identified there is confusion and a lack of clarity about how to become a nurse or midwife, and poor knowledge of the range of opportunities that come with nursing and midwifery as careers, particularly among young people.  We also identified the need to bolster the nursing voice in the development of policy.

As a result of these findings, NHS England and the Royal College of Nursing have identified the need to improve perceptions of the profession across the following three groups:

  • Educational environments, from primary schools through to adult learning.
  • Within the current nursing and midwifery workforce, and
  • Across key influencers such as the public, politicians, other professionals and the media

As part of the work to identify and shape specific projects that will sit under each of these areas, we want to hear from as many nurses and midwives as possible. You may have already seen a Twitter conversation managed in partnership with Crowdicity designed to capture as many ideas, opinions and comments on issues relating to the perception of nursing.

There will be three phases to this engagement, with the first open now focused on the following topics:

Young people in education

  • How might we encourage young children in the school system to see that nursing is a fantastic career choice?
  • How can teachers promote nursing and midwifery as a career choice?

Current nurses and midwives

  • How do we maintain the passion that nurses and midwives feel when they first join the profession?
  • How can we maintain our own pride in this profession to promote nursing and midwifery to junior colleagues and attract people to start their own journey?

Decision makers in the health and care system

  • How can we change the way that nurses and midwives are recognised so they are seen as a core profession equal to all others in healthcare?
  • How do we create an environment where nurses and midwives are more involved when making key decisions about healthcare?

The content generated via Twitter will be read and reviewed by a panel consisting of student nurses and midwives, senior leaders, academics in the nursing and midwifery professions and representatives from third sector organisations with the aim of including as many as possible in this ongoing and developing work.

We will be sharing more details of this ongoing engagement in the coming months, including at a dedicated session by Jane Cummings at the CNO Summit In March that will celebrate how nursing and midwifery in the NHS over the past seven decades.

Please sign up to our ideas channel and share widely with your colleagues – spread the word using the hashtags #FutureNursing and #FutureMidwifery.

Your voice, opinions and ideas are very welcome and important in shaping this part of our work.

Hilary Garratt

Hilary Garratt CBE, BSc, MSc, RGN, SCPHN (RHV), PGCE is the Deputy Chief Nursing Officer NHS England and NHS Improvement.

Hilary leads the implementation of a range of national programmes that focus on safeguarding vulnerable people and programmes that support the professional development and leadership of the nursing profession.

Hilary is a registered Nurse and Health Visitor, with 36 years’ experience of working in clinical, public health and Executive leadership roles in the NHS. Hilary has held a number of Executive Director posts across both commissioning and provider organisations in addition to holding and Deputy Chief Executive post for both. Hilary has been working at National Director level for the last 7 years.

In addition to her professional life, Hilary enjoys volunteering at the front line and also for the third sector. From 2013 – 2017 Hilary worked for BBC Children in Need as a committee member that undertook grant making for the North of England. Hilary also engages in hands on volunteering, working with the homeless and other vulnerable groups in her home city.

Hilary received a CBE in the 2017 New Years Honours for services to Nursing and her national work to safeguard some of the most vulnerable people in society. In 2018 Hilary was nominated as one of the country’s 400 Women of Achievement and Inspiration.

Follow Hilary on Twitter: @HilaryGarratt.