The nursing workforce is the most important factor in the provision of safe, effective, high quality compassionate care in a timely, cost-effective and sustainable manner. Evidence and experience show that having the right numbers of nursing staff, with the right skills, in the right place, at the right time improves health outcomes, the quality of care delivered, and patient safety.
Nursing is the largest safety critical profession in health care. In many settings nursing staff work alongside a team of health and social care professionals to ensure the safety and highest level of care for those we care for. However, it is nurses who understand the complexity of nursing care provision and the nursing workload. It is registered nurses and nursing support workers who provide nursing care. Therefore, it must be registered nurses who set the standard for nurse staffing and be assured that the nursing workforce is safe for the acuity and dependency of those they care for.
We know that a lack of nursing leadership and relevant support structures within organisations impacts on safety, quality of care and patient mortality as well as the mental health and general wellbeing of the nursing workforce. Nursing leadership must embody compassion both in style and behaviour towards the staff they lead. Compassionate leadership creates a psychologically safe workplace culture so staff feel safe to raise concerns, knowing they will be supported as a team or as individuals and be able to pursue high quality standards of care.
The nursing profession is playing a key role in the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic. Alongside a national recognition of the value of the nursing workforce, the challenges faced by that workforce are stark. Now more than ever, standards such as these are required. When the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic recedes and we return to a ‘new normal’, we will need to address the far reaching consequences of the pandemic. Our workforce will be the key to the safe and effective restoration of health care services and implementing lessons learnt into the future. The setting of collective standards across the UK has never been achieved before; however there is now a unique opportunity to build on the collective leadership demonstrated during the pandemic and although legislations may differ across the countries, the professional commonalities and ambitions are as one and underpin all aspirations and ambitions for us at the Royal College of Nursing.
Rachel Hollis FRCN, Chair of RCN Professional Nursing Committee