COVID-19: Now is the time for nurses to have confidence in ourselves and our training

 Dame Donna Kinnair 9 Apr 2020 Chief Executive and General Secretary

Dame Donna Kinnair shares her thoughts as she prepares to volunteer at the Nightingale Hospital.

Many years back, as a community nurse, a close colleague of mine lost her life in the course of her work. It had a huge impact on me and how I’ve chosen to spend the rest of my working life. That loss was heart-breaking and the loss of nursing colleagues on a greater scale fills me with dread. The pace of these announcements in the last week has been frightening.

One of the first hit home very hard. A thoroughly decent man I’d worked with years ago. A supportive public will herald each as a hero who paid the highest price for their dedication to other people’s good health. That will be of some small comfort to grieving families. Fellow professionals will feel the COVID-19 pandemic getting even closer to their door. For me, I’m redoubling my resolve to make sure the politicians, officials and employers understand the risks and their overriding obligation to put your safety first.

I’ve spent weeks in countless discussions about PPE – what’s needed, where it’s missing, why it’s not reaching the frontline and the poor advice or instructions given to staff. We don’t know where and how any individual contracts COVID-19, but it is my number one concern to make sure clear guidance and the full kit keeps you safe at work. When staff are properly equipped it’s the best thing not only for them but for the patient too.  

This weekend, I’ll be rejoining the frontline myself – volunteering at the Nightingale in London. Thousands like me are coming back to play our part. I feel apprehensive but I know I’ve made the right decision to get stuck in with the rest of you. Let’s have confidence in ourselves and our training. It’s almost clichéd to say that we’re seeing the best of nursing at the moment. But the scenes, shared on social media or on television, show nursing staff and their other colleagues pulling together and keeping morale up at the most difficult time. We’ve got each other’s backs. 

You may remember that the celebration of nursing we were expecting this year was altogether different. As part of the World Health Organisation’s ‘Year of the Nurse’, a new report this week was a timely reminder of the role we play. It spells out in black and white how essential the nurse role is in achieving health equality and improved outcomes for patients across the globe. 

It validated every single argument we make for investment in education, nursing posts and nurse leadership. Their eyes might have been elsewhere this week, but I will be putting these words under the noses of politicians and decision-makers when this has passed. When the next round of pay negotiations begin, they must remember the dedication and skill that was on display this year and not shy away from recognising it in full. 

When you come off shift or before you begin one, please remember: it’s ok not to be ok. Your colleagues, friends and managers are there to support you. The RCN is here for you. We are promoting a wide range of wellbeing resources and tips for members to help you through this situation in any small way. 

Huge numbers of you are reading the twice weekly COVID-19 update emails I’m sending with the latest information and guidance. Please do keep opening them and if you’re an RCN member and not yet receiving them, please do check we’ve got an up to date email address for you. It’s never been more important for us to be able to send you updates and ask for information on the situation in your part of the country. 

We will get through this together and come out the other side with greater support, recognition and unity than ever. 

Our website is continually being updated so you can find all COVID-19 related information in one place.

Dame Donna Kinnair

Dame Donna Kinnair

Chief Executive & General Secretary

Prior to her appointment as Acting Chief Executive & General Secretary, Dame Donna was Director of Nursing, Policy and Practice and worked with UK-wide RCN staff to drive and implement RCN professional nursing, policy and practice strategy.

Before joining the RCN, Donna held various roles, including Clinical Director of Emergency Medicine at Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust.
Donna advised the PM’s Commission on the future of Nursing and Midwifery in 2010 and served as nurse/child health assessor to the Victoria Climbié Inquiry.

Page last updated - 23/04/2020