Nursing Opinion

Pride in our social care nurses

Andrea Sutcliffe CBE, Chief Executive and Registrar at the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC)

Few of us living today will have experienced a global health and care crisis of this scale before.

From my own perspective, these past few weeks have been the most challenging, yet most privileged, of my career – leading the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s (NMC) actions in the UK response to Covid-19, supporting nurses, midwives and nursing associates in all health and social care settings and helping to expand the workforce at this time of crisis.

Throughout the rollercoaster and heartbreak of this pandemic so far, one thing continues to fill me with enormous pride and admiration: the expertise, compassion and commitment of our nurses, midwives, nursing associates, students and their colleagues. Despite tremendous pressures and extraordinarily difficult circumstances, they’re working tirelessly and with such dedication day in, day out.

As readers of Care Talk, you may be one of the more than 700,000 people on our permanent register – or one of over 11,000 former or overseas professionals on our emergency temporary register. Thank you for everything you are doing to care for people in these unprecedented times.

Social care nursing has never mattered more

We know from establishing our NMC Covid-19 temporary register that one of the most critical groups of people needed is those working in social care.

In my former role at the CQC, and now at the NMC, I knew this was the case even before the start of the pandemic

Sadly though, I still hear from nurses and others across the social care sector who feel their role is stigmatised, overlooked and underappreciated.

I’ve said it before and I’ll continue to say it over and over again: Nurses working in social care should never be made to feel disregarded or second best. As their professional regulator, we hold social care nurses in high esteem and know the difference they make for people living in the most vulnerable of circumstances.

Recognition is happening, albeit slowly. While sometimes frustrating reading for me, recent stories in the media and elsewhere sharing the experiences of those working in social care are vital – not only in highlighting the highly skilled job our nurses and their colleagues are doing – but also in serving to bring critical issues to the fore, such as the provision of appropriate personal protective equipment and testing for everyone in high risk areas.

More recently I was also glad to see a focus on better supporting the social care workforce in the form of the Government’s published Covid-19 Social Care Action plan.

Here at the NMC, I can promise that we’ll continue to work together with all of our partners to play our part in making sure social care nursing is not forgotten.

Looking to the future

Beyond Covid-19, there are reasons to be hopeful. Taking place during the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife, this crisis is shining an incredible light on the role of those working in social care, the image of nurses in all their guises as our most trusted profession has been strengthened enormously in the public mind. It’s clearer than ever that nurses are the heartbeat of our health and care system.

However, I’d be the first to acknowledge that there’s a long way to go before we can reap the rewards of a fully integrated health and social care workforce which can sustain the quality of care that we all want to see.

As we continue to champion social care, and our talented registrants working in nursing and midwifery in all health and care settings, I hope we can hold onto the spirit of collaboration that’s emerging as the pandemic continues and foster the right conditions and opportunities so that safe, effective and kind care for everyone, wherever they are can flourish long into the future.

 

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