In the 199th year since Florence Nightingale’s birth it seems appropriate that the Florence Nightingale Foundation celebrates the 2019 International Nurses Day with this article. 2020 will be a momentous year in the nursing and midwifery calendar across the world. National and international Florence Nightingale 2020 Partners are planning a variety of high profile events to take place throughout the Florence’s bicentenary year; up and down the country, across the UK and the world, from her birth place to her resting place. The Florence Nightingale Foundation (FNF) will host an international conference for 5,000 nurses and midwives in London, 26th-28th October 2020.

The FNF acknowledges that the most urgent issue that faces the nursing and midwifery professions today is the severe shortage of registered staff.  In 2017 more nurses and midwives (27%) left the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC)  register than joined it and poor access to continuing professional development was cited as one of the reasons for leaving. We are delighted that Simon  Stevens, NHS England Chief Executive, last month announced at Ruth May’s first Chief Nursing Officer Summit, a “personal guarantee” to restore the previously slashed funding for continuing professional development.

The FNF plays its part in the professional development and retention of the nursing and midwifery workforce.  Since 1929, we have inspired, nurtured and supported senior and mid-career nurses and midwives to stay in the professions they love, to improve health and care outcomes and change policy and practice. Providing these leadership development opportunities is essential but there are over 100,000 Registered Nurses and Midwives aged between 21-30 years and the majority of the 21-25 year-olds are newly registered. They have an informal leadership role that is not associated with any given position. They are leaders at the point of care and are accountable for, and oversee the completion of patient care as well as directly leading and managing the provision of safe patient care. The generational concepts identified in The Mind the Gap Report (Jones et al 2015) require consideration to appropriately support those as they begin their professional careers. Generation Y nurses and midwives (born between 1980-1995), have high expectations and are very career motivated. They need to see a clear pathway of progression and be supported through personal development.

I am proud the Foundation, from last year, agreed to invest in the leadership development of early career nurses and midwives. This coincided with the UK celebrating not only the NHS 70th anniversary, the arrival of the Windrush generation, 100 years of learning disability nursing but also 70 years of the Queen Alexandra Royal Army Nursing Corps (QARANC).  The Florence Nightingale Foundation partnered with the NHS to provide leadership learning opportunities for over 250 early career nurses and midwives. These included 110 NHS London, 30 NHS Midlands and East, 70 “Windrush” (BME) nurses and midwives and 40 Learning Disability Nurses.  The QARANC also invested in the leadership development of ten British Army Nurses.

I have personally been involved in the leadership journey of each one of these 260 nurses and midwives. How much I enjoyed their excitement and motivation to be the best nurse or midwife they can be. I am also grateful for my learning. I now know the “joie de vivre” that BME nurses and midwives give to their patients and communities, what fun they make each day. I now understand the little understood work of learning disability nurses, what a force they are to ensure people with a learning disability receive the care they so rightly deserve. These nurses and midwives have such enthusiasm, are ambassadors for our profession, and one day some will become Chief Nurses and one a future Chief Nursing Officer. They are Florence’s legacy today.

“It had aided me in developing self-awareness, a positive self-image. The residential training has provided me skills and knowledge regarding co-coaching and quality improvement. It has inspired me to look closely in our current practices and standards, and focus on areas that we can improve through our small change project. The RADA has helped me in developing my confidence, assertiveness and good communication skills”. Windrush Programme Participant 2019

This opinion piece was published in the Nursing Times on 3 May 2019.

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