Why we have to continue to fight for our profession

Dame Donna Kinnair 16 Oct 2020 Chief Executive and General Secretary

Dame Donna Kinnair explains why nursing is still undervalued, even during this pandemic

Every day I wake up and I feel proud to be a nurse. It is a profession that requires individuals to be analytical, questioning everything to make those highly skilled, complex decisions needed to care for patients. 

And I am always the first to encourage anyone with a passion for nursing to consider joining. 

But it is not a career for everyone. And it is certainly not a ‘default’ profession for people unfortunate enough to have had their livelihoods impacted by the pandemic. 

This was a topic of debate when I appeared on Question Time last week, and it was suggested that people faced with losing their jobs in the wider economy could join the care profession. 

It is clear to me that despite the incredible contribution nursing has made to the health of our nation – and supporting the country through COVID-19 – there is still a fundamental misunderstanding of what it means to be a member of nursing staff.

Nursing is a highly skilled, complex and safety critical profession. 

Regardless of where our members work – and we work across all sectors and types of workplace – the one thing that unites us is that all nursing staff are highly trained professionals.  

Elsewhere, I heard a politician more specifically suggest people ‘retrain’ in social care. The low wages that nursing staff in the social care sector face in no way reflects the skilled and important work you are responsible for. You care for our most vulnerable with compassion and make complex decisions about their care. 

We’ve been sharing a series of features in our member magazine, Bulletin, which clearly demonstrates the vital contribution our members working in care homes have made during the pandemic to reduce the risk of infection and innovations to care for patients. 

Today’s CQC State of Care report  should ring alarm bells with the UK Government – that those most in need of care are facing the biggest problems accessing the care they need. Services such as mental health and social care were already under huge pressures due to a lack of specialist staff before the pandemic and COVID-19 has now left them struggling to catch up.

Staffing shortages, poor pay – it is a dangerous mix when we know we have 50,000 vacancies in the NHS alone and thousands more in social care. 

We need proper investment in the nursing workforce – across our health and social care system. You also deserve to be able to go to work with the right number of nursing colleagues, to care for your patients and be able to deliver your safety critical role. 

I will continue to challenge those in power to hear the voices of our 450,000 members and to truly value the contribution of nursing staff in our health and social care services across the UK.  
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 - 13/05/2021