The RCN has published a report of its 2021 employment survey, revealing how members are feeling nearly two years into the pandemic.
The results show how much pressure nursing staff were under even before the Omicron wave hit and how working during the COVID-19 crisis has both exacerbated longstanding issues, as well as created new ones.
The findings, drawn from 9,577 responses to a survey conducted in October, show nursing staff routinely working unpaid overtime, delaying or not taking annual leave and feeling exhausted.
Respondents also expressed a growing sense of disillusionment after 18 months’ fighting the pandemic, with many citing feeling undervalued as a reason for wanting to leave their jobs.
Key findings include:
- 57% of respondents either thinking about leaving their job or actively planning to leave. The reasons for that included feeling undervalued (70%); feeling exhausted (60%); and not being able to give patients the level of care they would like to (47%)
- Around three-quarters of respondents reported having worked when unwell on at least one occasion over the previous 12 months (77.4%) or regularly working beyond their contracted hours at least once a week (74.1%). Just over half of these members (53%) reported these additional hours were unpaid
- 18% of respondents said they hadn’t asked for their full annual leave entitlement; and 15% that they were asked to delay their holiday time.
The findings will now be used to inform the RCN’s submission to the NHS Pay Review Body, which has been asked by the UK government to recommend what pay award staff should get for 2022-23.
RCN General Secretary & Chief Executive Pat Cullen said: “As the pandemic moves into a third calendar year and now we face another COVID wave, our members talk vividly about the toll of the pandemic and years of understaffing.
“Nursing undoubtedly has the potential to be a hugely rich and satisfying career, but with tens of thousands of nursing jobs unfilled the situation is unsustainable. All nursing staff need funded and supported time out – not limited to annual leave – regardless of which setting they work in.
“Likewise, where staff have taken time off due to illness, rest and recuperation must be central to decision-making about their return to work. Proper mental and psychological support services need to be made available.”
The RCN has developed a resource to support members facing unsustainable pressures in delivering safe and effective care. It aims to help them make the difficult decisions they’re faced with every day, such as the type of care provided, how it is provided and who it is provided to.
The RCN also has a range of online resources to support members’ mental and emotional wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic.