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The importance of clinical supervision

RCN Forums 17 May 2022

Sally Bassett (Chair of the Nursing in Management and Leadership Forum) and Ruth Harris (Chair of the RCN Research Society) explain how the RCN UK forums are working together to improve the experience of clinical supervision for nursing staff.

The Royal College of Nursing’s 35 forums provide clinical leadership and expertise to the college on professional nursing matters.

Working independently, and with support from the college, each forum contributes to a wide range of RCN professional work, from learning events and conferences to clinical guidelines and standards, as well as representing the college on national stakeholder groups.

As COVID-19 was first starting to take hold, members of the Forum Chairs Committee (FCC) identified that workforce pressures experienced by health and care staff were increasing. In response, the FCC worked together to explore how clinical supervision might be an appropriate mechanism to support nursing staff in dealing with these pressures.

The significant issues raised by the pandemic forced much of our health care system into new, unified ways of working. Our forums too recognised the need to innovate and collaborate, and facilitated by FCC they all agreed an urgent need for the RCN to lead the profession to better define, position and improve clinical supervision.

Each forum considered the role of clinical supervision to be crucial to supporting professional development for nursing staff in their specialist areas, so a scoping review was undertaken to bring together existing research on how clinical supervision. 

Our project researchers Roselyne Masamha and Lolita Alfred led the review which examined a wealth of international literature, and looked specifically at barriers, facilitators and the required skillsets.

Roselyne and Lolita said, “The review also highlighted some of the complexities around this issue. Clinical supervision was designed to be a supportive platform for nurses to reflect on and develop their practice. However, our review found that despite efforts in clinical practice and numerous discussions in the literature about how to enhance facilitation and access to clinical supervision, there have been persistent barriers resulting in patchy implementation across nursing areas.”

The teams’ review identified these persistent factors as ‘barriers to overcoming the barriers’ in the clinical supervision landscape.

We hope that our conclusions will prompt further outcome-based discussions about clinical supervision amongst nursing staff, regulatory bodies, and key stakeholders such as policy makers.
The ambition now is to formulate a clear, evidence-based position on clinical supervision within the nursing profession. Furthermore, this presents an opportunity to coalesce nurses’ voices to inform their professional development and shape the most appropriate platforms for reflection and effective support.

Bringing together forum experts from across the vast breadth of our profession has been both transformational and inspirational. FCC will now work with the RCN Professional Nursing Committee to develop and set out our position on Clinical Supervision. It will reflect the findings of the review and help set the direction - and lead - the professional debate.

You can read more about our work in our recent paper in the Journal of Advanced Nursing. We would be delighted to involve any members with an interest in this work as it develops. Get in touch with your Forum chair for details.

Finally, we would like to take this opportunity to thank the RCN for funding this project, thanks to the whole project team that also includes Annette Gilmore (Chair of the RCN eHealth Forum) and Dr Sarah Burden (Chair of the RCN Education Forum); and of course all RCN Forum chairs for their collective wisdom and efforts, without whom this work would not have happened.

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RCN Forums

Forums are groups of RCN members who work or have an interest in a particular area of professional nursing practice.

All forums provide you with the opportunity to keep up-to-date with development in your field, contribute in consultations, network with your peers and explore career development opportunities.

Page last updated - 20/05/2022