Retention of the NHS workforce is a long overdue focus and there is much to do, however we are pleased we are starting to see some early improvements – Professor Mark Radford RN, Director of Nursing – Improvement, NHS Improvement


Mark Radford

Retention of the NHS workforce is a long overdue focus and there is much to do, however we are pleased we are starting to see some early improvements – Professor Mark Radford RN, Director of Nursing – Improvement, NHS Improvement

19 months ago NHS Improvement was commissioned by the Secretary of State for Health to launch a retention programme to support trusts in the retention of clinical staff and to share knowledge, tools and best practice across the sector.

Over the last 12 months period we have done exactly this.  In the first instance, in partnership with NHS Employers we have led and delivered six retention masterclasses for over 500 participants from NHS providers. Through these, 110 NHS trusts (nearly 50% of all trusts) that were experiencing higher staff turnover rates received direct tailored support from us over a 90 day period. And where our cohorts are engaging fully with the programme staff turnover rates are going down. 71% of our nursing and mental health cohort 1 trusts (25 out of 35 trusts) have noted improvement in their staff turnover rates since starting the programme.

Our work with the trusts to support improvements in staff turnover rates has been published on the NHS Improvement hub website – Staff retention support programme: one year on.  This shares our outcomes through the use of a direct support model and the provision of national learning resources available to support providers. We have since developed and secured funding for national roll out to all provider organisations.

In terms of early year career support and newly qualified nurses (NQNs), there is a high turnover (at a median of 24% in most places), and for some Trusts this is because staff are moving on for better opportunities. Sadly this is not always the case: the reality for some early years nurses is that they have a very poor experience. They are often not supported beyond the preceptorship period, which is of varying quality and then many NQNs are left to fend for themselves. NQNs are also looking for career support and mapping at 1, 2 and 5 year horizons and they want someone to help with this. We know that early years nurses will stay if they feel valued – we all need to work harder to do this,  through career support, pastoral care and educational offer such as CPD.


For more information about our programme please email , follow us on twitter @NHSImprovement #NHSRetention you can also contact us to suggest a retention resource you use or have developed via this link

Student nurse to the real job as a real nurse is a whole different kettle of fish! Book review of “How to thrive as a newly qualified nurse”- (Carol Forde-Johnson) by Sharon Sanford (Newly Qualified Nurse)

how to thrive - book picAs a Newly Qualified Nurse (NQN) it’s both exciting and scary to transition into your first role. I know this because it’s how I feel, and my peers feel the same.  Student placements are fine and go some way to preparing you for life as a NQN and by the end of the third year I knew I could fit in with a new team, learn new skills and achieve my objectives but that confidence comes in part from knowing you are looked after by the University. Starting a real job as a real nurse is a whole different kettle of fish! A million questions run riot in my head, everything from what will the team expect of me? What tools will I use to keep my patients safe? How will I know if my documentation is good enough? What if something goes wrong…the list is endless. It would appear that the answers to these questions and many others can be found in this book.

Sharon Sandford
Sharon Sanford

A few weeks ago I stumbled across a competition to win a book ‘How to thrive as a newly qualified nurse by Carol Forde-Johnston’. I was lucky enough and well chuffed to win a copy as I never win anything. Anyway this book reads like you’ve got the loveliest mentor you’ve ever had holding your hand through the transition from student nurse to qualified nurse. Just reading it made me feel calmer and better prepared about my imminent start.  In my opinion Carol Forde-Johnson’s book is the best transition book I’ve read. The book covers everything from interviewing for your new post to thinking about career progression. The interview section is really useful, it gives examples of interview questions you might be asked but also asks you to think through the answers you might give which, in my opinion helps you to decide if this really is the right role for you, useful for anyone unsure where they might like to work, after all there are thousands of Band 5 roles out there.  A bit of forethought and advance preparation might help you find the right role first time.

The chapters are all equally useful but the stand out chapter is structuring your learning in the first three months. There is no standardised preceptorship package and the onus on learning is down to me, as yours will be with you. I see taking ownership of my learning as removing some of the burden from my team.  Each chapter has a “what to do next” section, these are very useful and nursing gold akin to coming on shift to find that it is fully staffed! I’ll be able to apply these and make SMART goals towards my own personal development plan.

Carol Forde-Johnston does attempt to cover lots of issues about nursing in a variety of settings, but one teeny tiny flaw with the book is that it is written predominantly with a ward focus as is the case with the majority of books and articles. Maybe the lack of primary care resources stem from the days when a newly qualified had to go onto a ward as a first role, or maybe it’s just that primary care nurses haven’t gotten round to writing books on transition yet?  There is a gap, especially as there is a real drive to treat people away from the acute sector and keep people well at home for as long as possible. Added to which, a NQN can now go into a variety of roles in General Practice and Community Nursing, a book for us and the challenges specific to issues such as lone working would be a godsend.

Having said that, and despite the fact I am going off to be a community nurse I still found this book to be invaluable. So much so that I’m going to keep it (normally I pass books on to benefit others) but I know I will be referring back to this one. My advice to you is if you know a final year student nurse or a NQN tell them to have a look at this book.

Project RETAIN aims to increase nurse recruitment and retention in the care of older people settings

Project Retain

– by Gillian McCorkell, Lead Project Nurse, Workforce and Education (Burdett Project), Public Health Agency (PHA), Northern Ireland

Funded by the Burdett Trust for Nursing, Project RETAIN aims to increase nurse recruitment and retention in the care of older people settings across the five Health and Social Care (HSC) Trusts in Northern Ireland (NI) by embedding a culture of open and transparent communication across all bands and disciplines of staff. The project is a regional initiative in partnership with local HSC Trusts, the Department of Health, Age NI and nurse education providers and is delivering a programme of development activities including team coaching, practice support, supervision and professional and personal effectiveness.


Using a co-design ethos steered by the PHA, the project team is undertaking a range of activities that will help to ensure the retention of a skilled and resilient, motivated nursing workforce in older peoples’ hospital settings. Peer Facilitators from AGE NI have engaged with nursing staff on the wards and pre reg students in the universities to provide a series of action learning sets. This ensures that the voice and experience of older people are central to the future of nursing, and older people are supporting the development of a competent and stable nursing workforce for the ageing population.

Students on placement are supported to undertake positive placement experiences so that they choose to work as a registered nurse in care of older people settings in the future. In addition, scaffolded support for new registrants is provided in their first two years post registration. The team is also working closely with staff at all levels in the sector to develop career pathways. Key to all these activities is a commitment to ensuring that students and staff and whatever the stage they are at in their careers feel supported, engaged and appreciated and see working in older peoples’ settings as a positive career choice.

A training programme for staff in 10 wards commenced in January 2018 and was completed in September 2018. Quantitative and qualitative data is being collected to demonstrate the impact and value of this study on staff retention and progression. Data is currently being analysed and early indicators reveal that RETAIN has had a significant difference on the recruitment and retention of nursing staff across the 10 wards that participated in the project.

If you would like to hear more about the project please contact Gillian McCorkell via email; or phone (Mobile) 07801856309 or 02895361125

Project Retain Steering Group
RETAIN Project Steering Group includes Mary Hinds, Director of Nursing and AHPs Public Health Agency (Chair) and Gillian McCorkell (Project Lead)



STaR Project presents at The Burdett Trust for Nursing Symposium

JW @ BurdettDr Jane Wray – Director of Research, School of Health and Social Work, University of Hull

On Monday 17 September 2018 members of the STaR project team attended The Burdett Trust for Nursing Symposium ‘Strengthening Nurse Leadership and Retention Programmes’ in London. The Burdett Trust brought together several of their funded projects to share preliminary work and findings. Following a welcome by Shirley Baines, CEO or the Burdett Trust, there were two keynote presentations. The first by Dame Eileen Sills, Burdett Trustee, Chief Nurse and Deputy Chief Executive, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust on “What does it take to become an Aspiring Nurse Director” and the second by Professor Thomas Kearns, Executive Director of the Faculty of Nursing and Midwifery at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland presenting “Everyone has influence – generating a global voice for nursing”. Dr Barbara Stilwell Executive Director of Nursing Now also addressed the conference. The conference was attended by some leading UK nurses including Jane Cummings, Chief Nursing Officer for England, her predecessor Dame Christine Beazley, a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Health Group and Christine Hancock, Founder and Director of C3 Collaborating for Health and former General Secretary of the RCN.

Then the project teams from the ‘Strengthening Nurse Leadership’ and ‘Retention Programmes’ presented their work to colleagues and peers. I presented an update on the STaR project and its activities to date, prior to the symposium discussion.  It was a really useful opportunity for us to showcase our project and all our hard work to date and also to learn from the other projects and network with colleagues. There is some great work being undertaken to support leadership and retention not just for newly qualified nurses supported by the Burdett Trust. We came away with lots of useful ideas for further development of our work especially the ‘transition toolkit’ which we will be sharing with our wider project networks and practice partners to help plan our next steps.

Exploring the Reality and Preparing for the Shock: Using the experiences of graduates

Helen Convey PhotoExploring the Reality and Preparing for the Shock: Using the experiences of graduatesHelen Convey RN, MA – Lecturer in the School of Healthcare, University of Leeds

Graduation days are some of my favourite days of the academic year. It’s lovely to share in the celebrations and to hear about the experiences of our newly qualified nurse (NQN) graduates who are now in practice. At graduation NQNs often tell me that their first few weeks and months in practice as registrants are much harder than they anticipated; the literature reflects this and the experience of transition as a challenging time is well documented.

This time of transition to practice is a change; NQNs might feel detached from familiar arrangements and support systems and they may find that they have new needs and feel unsure about how to meet these. NQNs may experience reality shock, where they find that they are not prepared for a role or situation that they have worked to be prepared for. Given the research evidence and my anecdotal experience I explored learning and teaching approaches to support BSc Adult Nursing students in their transition from student to registrant.

One of the approaches that I explored was the use of stories from NQNs. This resource from Patient Voices was a useful starting point. I thought that acquiring and using stories from our own graduates would be a powerful way to help our learners to identify with the phenomenon. I sourced stories for use in facilitated tutorials via graduate gatekeepers, using email and social media. No specific formula was requested, just a willingness to share experiences of transition for the purposes of facilitating learning.

Some NQNs were happy to be identified whilst others preferred to remain anonymous. They provided long narratives or brief snapshots (which were presented in the tutorial as quotations) and all of the responses were valuable. The challenges that NQNs talked about were; having a new sense of responsibility and feeling doubtful whilst making clinical decisions; feeling under pressure to work quickly; needing an awareness of their ability so that they could deliver competent care and needing to use the skills to influence change in practice.

Every NQN story provided a solution to the challenge and an evaluation of its effectiveness. Solutions included; sharing worries with senior staff or preceptors; ‘standing your ground’ regarding competency and using negotiation skills to effect change. NQNs described growing in confidence, understanding of the role and an emerging feeling of knowing and understanding.

Learners found using the stories beneficial and expressed thanks to the NQNs for providing them. In evaluation the percentage of learners agreeing or strongly agreeing that these resources had helped them to think about the experience of transition were 83% for the quotations and 84% for the narratives (N= 104).

Using this approach does require sensitive facilitation so that all experiences of transition can be seen as positive learning opportunities. I continue to request and collect stories and there is potential for this approach to be used by other professional groups. If you would like to know more about my project and the other learning and teaching approaches that I use to support transition please contact me


A study to develop, pilot and evaluate a sustainable model of online peer support for newly qualified nurses

Natalie Webster A study to develop, pilot and evaluate a sustainable model of online peer support for newly qualified nurses – Analisa Smythe, Natalie Webster and Catharine Jenkins

Newly qualified nurses (NQN’s) are particularly vulnerable during the first few years of their careers and have reported experiences of being overwhelmed, stressed and even intimidated. These negative feelings leave NQN’s at high risk for early career burnout and leaving the profession; it is therefore imperative that strategies to improve retention for newly qualified nurses become a priority. Our study is a collaborative endeavour between Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Foundation Trust (BSMHFT) and University Hospitals Birmingham (UHB) with the aim of developing, piloting and evaluating a model of online peer support for newly qualified nurses delivered via smartphone technology. Continue reading “A study to develop, pilot and evaluate a sustainable model of online peer support for newly qualified nurses”

Water, water nowhere and no-one who can think – Phillip Darbyshire, Professor of Nursing, Adelaide

Phillip Darbyshire 3Water, water nowhere and no-one who can think – Phillip Darbyshire, Professor of Nursing, Adelaide Australia

Every so often it happens, even at my age.  You think that you have seen and heard everything in nursing and then along comes something that completely upends you. I sat recently in a research conference in the UK hearing Janet Davies, head of the RCN say that she never thought she’d see the day when the RCN needed to run a campaign urging nurse to drink, eat and basically not collapse on duty from dehydration or hypoglycaemia.  I listened, but I also looked around, convinced that the ‘punk’d’ team were going to leap out at any second to heap scorn on the gullible who’d believed all of this.  They didn’t appear.  This was real. When the subject of water bottles and their ‘banning’ in some wards and units was raised, lots of nurses around me were nodding furiously.  Toto, I was truly not in Kansas anymore. Continue reading “Water, water nowhere and no-one who can think – Phillip Darbyshire, Professor of Nursing, Adelaide”

Some thoughts on reflection for the transition to newly qualified nurse – Charlie Middleton

Charlie Middleton

Some thoughts on reflection for the transition to newly qualified nurse – Charlie Middleton, Lecturer in Nursing, University of Dundee

In a recent editorial in the JAN, I wrote about low morale in nursing students. The final weeks before graduation can be a time of excitement, but sometimes experiences in practice and academic pressures can hamper enthusiasm. Reflection forms a key part of NMC revalidation and is associated with improvements in nurse resilience and well-being. So in the last few weeks of final assessments and sign off placements, it can be helpful to take some time to think about your future. Continue reading “Some thoughts on reflection for the transition to newly qualified nurse – Charlie Middleton”

Retaining Mental Health Nurses in Humber Teaching NHS Foundation Trust

Peer Support Group - 2015
Peer Support Group 2015

Retaining Mental Health Nurses in Humber Teaching NHS Foundation Trust – Haley Jackson, Research Nurse

We at Humber realise how difficult it is to be a newly qualified (NQ) staff nurse working in an inpatient mental health unit. It became apparent that an increasing number of NQs were leaving inpatient care within months of qualifying. NQs were complaining that the support they received was not substantial enough to prepare them for the role. They felt overwhelmed by their new responsibilities and experienced difficulties fitting in to front line staff teams under pressure from high acuity and heavy workload.  Despite the support of a ward-based mentor and the Trust preceptorship it was recognised inpatient NQs needed something more. Continue reading “Retaining Mental Health Nurses in Humber Teaching NHS Foundation Trust”

“Haemorrhaging nurses” one in 10 quit NHS England each year


Haemorraging nursesAt the recent STaR project advisory group meeting (15th January 2018), the research team, our STaR consultants and external advisors discussed ideas on how we might better support the transtion of newly qualified nurses into the workplace.  There has been much in the national media recently reporting that the number of nurses leaving the profession is greater than those joining the register. Continue reading ““Haemorrhaging nurses” one in 10 quit NHS England each year”