The UK’s chronic shortage of nurses shows no immediate sign of improving. One in four nurses had to be recruited from abroad last year, according to figures released by the Nursing and Midwifery Council – no surprise then, that demand for agency workers has increased significantly in recent years.
Commenting on the findings, MSI Group’s CEO Nick Simpson said: ‘Local and national skills shortages mean that public sector organisations can struggle to recruit desperately needed talent. Bringing on board the skills they require on a contract basis can be the answer to maintaining front-line services to respond to heightened demand. However, long-term, it is essential that investment is made in training and development to ensure that we are able to pipeline talent for the future.’
If you’re thinking about specialising, we reveal the positions most in-demand and how to get into them.
The NHS’ move towards Virtual Wards (designed to prevent unplanned admissions by using the systems of a hospital ward to provide multidisciplinary case management in the community) has created unprecedented demand for district nurses, along with health visitors and other community staff.
What you need
You typically need between one to two years’ professional experience as a qualified adult nurse to train to become a district nurse. District nurse training – known as specialist practitioner programmes – are at degree level. It usually takes a year (32 weeks) full time to complete and is 50% theory and 50% practice. Courses are also available at postgraduate certificate and Masters-level. ‘The best way into this role is to work as a community staff nurse first. Many employers will take nurses straight from qualifying and offer an intense period of induction and preceptorship, although some prefer you to gain around six months’ to a year’s hospital experience before starting a staff nurse role,’ says Cathy Taylor, careers advisor at the Royal College of Nursing.
Guidance from NICE earlier this year (which states that A&E units should have a maximum of four patients per nurse, with one nurse to two patients, for cases of trauma and cardiac arrests and one to one care for resuscitation) has led to the recruitment drive. Up to 18 per cent of full time registered nursing posts in A&E departments in England are not being permanently filled, according to the RCN.
What you need
‘Most nurses working in A&E departments have gained some experience on an acute ward first, usually between six months to a year,’ says Cathy. ‘Experience on a medical or surgical assessment ward is useful as patient turnover is fast. Once working in an A and E setting nurses take specialist emergency nursing courses based in universities and shorter courses in topics such as mentorship, life support and management of minor illnesses or injuries.’
Registered paediatric and neonatal nurses are continually sought-after, as strict nurse-to-patient ratios are enforced amid consistent demand.
What you need
Pre-registration nursing degrees are offered in four branches: children (paediatric), adult, learning disability and mental health. Usually, you will need to decide which of the four branches of nursing (ie paediatric) you wish to train for before applying for a three or four year programme. If you want to move into paediatric nursing from another area, such as adult nursing, you will need to complete a shortened, university based programme for registered nurses. A list of shortened programmes is available at the UCAS web site – www.ucas.ac.uk
Despite ‘specialist nurses working in neonatal intensive care units’ being removed from the most recent Shortage Occupation List*, the demand for specialist nurses to staff intensive care units, particularly neonatal intensive care units, remains high.
What you need
‘To work within a Specialist ICU it’s helpful to have some post registration experience in an acute area, such as on a medical/surgical ward, in A and E or cardiology or day surgery, among others. Some acute wards have a high dependency or coronary care unit attached, which provides useful experience.,’ says Cathy. ‘However, extensive experience in acute nursing is not always necessary, with most intensive care units providing intense induction and training for staff new to the area. Once in post you can take specialist, university based, critical care courses.’
Sonographers, radiographers, surgeons, psychiatrists, A&E doctors and locum GPs make up the rest of the top 10 on MSI Group’s list.
*The shortage occupation list (SOL) is an official list of occupations where there are not currently enough resident UK workers to fill vacancies. If a job is on the SOL, employers can recruit a worker from outside of the European Economic Area (EEA) to the vacancy without having to meet the conditions of the resident labour market test (RLMT) that usually apply as part of the tier 2 visa process.
Earlier this year, government advisors concluded that nursing should not be added to the SOL as it “did not receive evidence of a national shortage.” The RCN responded at the time to insist there was “extensive and unambiguous” evidence of a shortage of nurses in the UK.
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