Many organisations now make efforts to ensure that employees are resilient in terms of their physical and mental health so they can remain at work and maintain a high level of service.
But RCN Norfolk branch member Helen Oatham, a nurse in Norwich, said that in some cases staff may feel pressured to go to work when they are not fit to do so due to the importance being placed on resilience.
The issue was discussed at RCN Congress, which took place in Liverpool (19-23 May 2019).
Helen said: “There has been a big push on resilience in the last few years with a focus on creating a resilient workforce able to cope no matter what is thrown at them.
“You can imagine that in a high pressure profession such as nursing this is seen as a good thing as we deal with high demand, increased stress and often staff shortages on a daily basis.
“But what if you are not able to cope? Is not being resilient a criticism? So we have to consider that the individual has a responsibility to look after themselves but also the organisation also has to support people to work as best they can.”
Helen said that resilience had become a “buzz word” and while it could be seen as a positive attribute, it could have a negative effect if people felt forced to work when they should not be.
“I think it is thrown into conversation as a good thing without actually thinking what it actually means and the expectations that it puts on people,” she said.
“Are we setting people up to fail? We already have staffing issues. People already feel guilty about calling in sick because they know colleagues are going to suffer without them.
“So there is a fear about not being seen as resilient and not coping. But ultimately if you’re not fit to be at work then you shouldn’t be there. It is still your accountability and responsibility if you do something wrong and are not fit to be there.”
Teresa Budrey, RCN Eastern Regional Director, said: “The rate at which nurses are leaving the profession is a cause for concern, related to being overstretched, levels of demand and the impact of these on morale and standards of care.
“Developing resilient health care staff is seen as important in promoting wellbeing, workforce sustainability and the consistent delivery of quality care.
“But it is also important to consider the impact of focussing on resilience as the only answer to staffing shortages."
The full Norfolk branch motion debated at RCN Congress states: “That this meeting of Congress discusses if resilience is always a positive attribute and one to be aspired to in the modern health care workforce.”