I wanted to call this article, “Will it ever end” I know that is how many people are still feeling about the pandemic we have and continue to live through. I am sure we all would like a planned discharge date from it, so we can focus on other things and makes plans to start new projects and energise ourselves with new ideas. It has been relentless. As we recover from the enormity of the work and the challenges we have faced, we should look forward with optimism for a better future.
I know that there is both huge gratitude from those whom you have cared for, their families, your colleagues and peers, and immense pride in yourselves for the valiant hard work you have given both throughout the pandemic, and every other small significant thing you have done for those in your care always. It is important we remember both that and colleagues and those in our care we lost.
There is much work to do for nursing in social care. As we await the outcome of the NMC consultation on Specialist Practice Qualifications and the opportunity this may present for our sector’s nurses, we can consider what we may want in terms of post graduate education for the specialism. Shaping and defining the skills and knowledge needed as we deliver the complexity of care needed to those in our care. Social care nurses undertake advanced clinical decision making, complex care coordination across multi agencies, leading a team, managing relationships, facilitation care, planning and reviewing to name a few of the critical interventions needed to work in our nurse led services.
Workforce should be a key part of social care. We need to sustain and encourage more nurses to work with us. One vital element of this beyond recruitment is the need to turn our attention to influencing the undergraduate workforce, not only nurses but all undergraduate health professionals. It is imperative we ensure a positive experience for these students in order that they will have both the opportunity to experience all the positive things social care has to offer and influence their practice into the future. It was my own experience of working in social care as a student nurse many decades ago that has stayed with me and helped me understand the wider community of practice which happened beyond the hospital walls. It is that experience which has also helped me understand people, the complexity of the lives they live, choices they make, social deprivation in communities, family dynamics and the realisation not everyone had the family life I had had growing up. It was a vital grounding which stayed me throughout my career. We are all different, we all experience things differently and we all respond to those situations we find ourselves in, in different ways. We are all products of our experience. I want others to have that opportunity, it will help shape better practitioners and help them see the wonderful career social care offers.
Building our evidence base across our workforce both registered and not is critical in building a better understanding and voice from which we can influence, learn and shape our workforce, support change and create a solid history from which we can learn. Social Care is not going away. We need to build on data for future generations. Everyone of us gets frustrated by providing data, but it is vital in building a platform of rich information which can help create evidence and solid unarguable fact. I want to see a Chair in Social Care Nursing, an academic leader who will be able to build on the phenomenal work of the sector’s research. This needs to be accessible to all and help improve our practice.
We need to see innovation in social care, it is a breeding ground for new ideas and is agile, flexible and responsive. One of the most rewarding aspects of working in social care for me has been the opportunity to create the solution for individuals; both staff and those using services quickly, and dynamically change as you test out new ways of doing things. We need to encourage this and share more. The QNI Care Home Nurses Network, Skills for Care Nurse Network and their Registered Managers Network are important places where you can join and share with like-minded colleagues. Sharing new ideas and solutions and talking to each other is key.
Supporting the workforce is vital in providing much needed acknowledgment and recognition. Recognising and celebrating successes through the Chief Nurse for Adult Social Care Awards launched this summer are proving popular. This is a peer reviewed award which recognises exceptional individuals. I have been so pleased to see so many nominations and it is the utmost privilege to give these awards, both virtual and in person as I visit services. I am so proud to do so, and so proud to be in this advisory role as the first Chief Nurse for Adult Social Care in Department of Health and Social Care, working with colleagues across the civil service to help support them in their work in developing policy.
I have set up my Advisory Group in order that I am informed in my advice and have ensured we have representation from both registered and unregistered staff. I know every voice matters and I know that my role is about how we build our future leaders for roles such as this. It is a priority that I do so.
Our specialism is not for the faint hearted, it is for people like you and me who want to do our best and enable everyone to reach their potential whatever that is. I hope you are as proud of what you do, as much as I am in helping to make changes which will improve things for as many as possible. We have much to look forward to in the years ahead and we will grow from this into the future.