Nursing Opinion

A new beginning for nursing in social care

Deborah Sturdy, Chief Nurse for Adult Social Care

In the past, I’m sure many of us made New Year resolutions – promises to ourselves to change bad habits, take up new hobbies or finally tackle that DIY job we’ve been putting off for years.

I’m sure the pandemic hasn’t stop us making these positive life changes, but the fact it is still with us makes it more challenging to see the start of 2022 as a new beginning.

That said, our situation is significantly different this time round. Our population has been vaccinated multiple times, levels of severe illness are not as high as they once were, and we continue to learn valuable lessons about how to mitigate infection risk and better support those unfortunate enough to succumb.

I remain focused on the belief we are closer to the end of the pandemic than the beginning and are already stronger for it. Our sum of knowledge has grown so fast, new opportunities to expand, enhance and evolve social care support have inevitably presented themselves.

We have achieved this in no small part thanks to those amazing people, in both the health and care sectors, who lost their lives as they strove to protect others. They inspire us, each and every day, to show courage, determination and leadership – qualities we already have in abundance but which we don’t do nearly enough to celebrate.

In the last forty years of my career, I have never shied away from a challenge, testing and pushing boundaries and never taking the easy option. I have quietly relished the challenge of demonstrating the value, complexity and innovation of this underappreciated area of practice.

It has meant a career which has been immensely rewarding, but also frustrating at times. I yearn for others outside our sector to see how critical our work is to the health and wellbeing of our communities.

The coronavirus pandemic has undoubtedly been the greatest challenge of our professional lives and, while I really hope we won’t face another pandemic for many years to come, we have proved our worth and our right to lead transformative change in social care services.

More than ever, we must recognise the professionalism, skills and standards of exceptional care this sector workforce delivers.

The £500 million set aside for workforce reform is very welcome and will help us create and sustain a more positive, supported and confident workforce for the future.

Our working relationships – with colleagues and those we look after – are intense by definition, so a significant proportion of this funding will be directed at more effective ways to look after ourselves and each other. Talking, using tools which allow us space to explore how we feel, and checking in with each other is paramount.

You cannot keep giving without making sure you are well emotionally. Those of us in leadership roles need to take this advice and lead by example. The more we are open about our own need for support, the more our team colleagues will feel able to take our lead and address their own wellbeing issues.

Equally, on the professional side, continuous professional development (CPD), skills passports and fundamental skills baselines are important in establishing our workforce as one which has the standards and expectations to deliver safe and effective care to all.

We need to support our phenomenal Registered Managers who perform difficult roles and do not get the recognition they deserve. We need to build leaders for the future including those in the clinical space and make sure there is real diversity in these roles.

We need to support our leaders, as they are the linchpin of change, care quality and the commitment to keep improving. We need their knowledge, wisdom and enthusiasm to inspire the wider workforce and nurture individual potential.

I believe 2022 will allow us time to reflect on what we have collectively achieved and carve out new opportunities in a care sector, so much more diverse, exciting and innovative than many people realise.

Recognising our colleagues for the incredible and exceptional things they do for others is just one way we can demonstrate the truth of that statement. I launched the Chief Nurse for Adult Social Care Awards last year for exactly that reason.

If you didn’t nominate your colleagues last year, make sure you do in 2022. Let’s shine a light on our sector, show the world what we know, and take our rightful place as leaders of change. If we can’t have faith in ourselves, we can’t expect it of others. Luckily, our amazing care workforce has proven its worth a million times over – let’s make sure everyone else knows it!





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