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Karen Roberts

By Karen Roberts, Group Head of Health and Clinical Governance, Registered Learning Disabilities Nurse, Queen’s Nurse, chair member on the Social Care Nursing Advisory Councils

“Nursing is an art,” wrote the founder of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale. “And if it is to be made an art, it requires an exclusive devotion as hard a preparation as any painter’s or sculptor’s work.”

Over a century later, you’d be hard-pressed to find any nurse who doesn’t agree.

Today, 12 May – Florence Nightingale’s birthday – we celebrate International Nurses Day.

You probably don’t need to have read the news recently to know that social care and the NHS continue to face difficulties recruiting nurses.

This means, of course, that patient care is badly affected. That’s why this year’s theme, Our Nurses, Our Future, feels especially poignant – and double-pronged.

Two questions I think about a lot are: how can we attract more nurses into social care – and keep those wonderful ones we already have?

Shaping the future

Thankfully, I – and by extension, Lifeways, the UK’s largest supported living provider – now have the opportunity to help shape the future of social care nursing in this country.

That’s because I have recently taken on a new additional role as one of the 42 Chairs of the new Social Care Nursing Advisory Councils (SCNAC). These new councils have been launched in every one of England’s 42 ICBs (integrated care boards).

The councils work with Deborah Sturdy, Chief Nurse for Adult Social Care, to ensure the voice of social care nursing is heard – and isn’t merely a distant second fiddle to NHS nursing.

Unified goal

On the council, we all have the same goal: to ensure the people we support get the best quality of life they can.

Our shared mission feels challenging – but extremely necessary. It’s no exaggeration to say that without the care, knowledge, and skill of social care nurses, the loved ones of everyone in the country would see a dramatic drop in their quality of life.

So, what do we need to do to bring on board new social care nurses – and retain the ones we have?

To start, we need to show and promote the benefits of working in social care.

There’s plenty of benefits: social care nurses enjoy often-greater autonomy than a hospital setting, more chances to develop varied skills, and the opportunity to build meaningful, longer-term relationships.

And unlike in a hospital setting, nurses make a positive difference to people through all stages of their lives – not just when they are unwell.

The art of nursing

Alongside demonstrating the benefits of working on social care, we need to attract the right people and then support them in developing their career with a pathway that suits them and their goals.

And we also need to communicate that nursing is, after all, an art – and an art form for the truly devoted.

With my new seat at the table on the Social Care Nursing Advisory Councils, I’ll be making the voice of social care nurses heard – and I’ll work to raise the profile of our nurses for our future.

Happy International Nurses Day!


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