There is a recruitment crisis in nursing. Elizabeth Goulding reports on attempts to tempt new recruits and improve the benefits.
THE Nursing profession has the highest ideals the specialist care and attention to the needs of patients at both vulnerable times in their lives, and concern at life's unique moments such as the birth of a child. Nurses are part of a wider medical team working to restore patients to full health. It is impossible to underestimate the gratitude patients feel when they are given the best care and attention the medical profession has to offer. The continuing developments in medical care over the past 15-20 years in such specialist fields as premature baby care or ultra sound technology have added to the traditional nursing attributes, the capacity to utilise the newest of technologies.
The human body with its complexities and weaknesses provides great opportunities for specialisation whether it be in obstetrics, paediatrics, orthopaedic psychiatry, geriatrics or neurology.
The National Hospital for Nervous Diseases in London offers unrivalled courses in neurology, specialising in diseases which affect the nervous systems strokes, epilepsy, brain tumours, Parkinson's Disease, multiple sclerosis.
Gynaecology, the field of female reproduction and associated areas, can pose ethical dilemmas for Catholic nurses who will perhaps find themselves caring for one 24-week old child in a premature baby unit, while later in the day assisting at a late abortion.
The recent cases of Miss S, the Oxford student who wanted an abortion against the wishes of the father, the sterilisation of a I7-year old with a mental handicap, and the current case of pain tests on premature babies in Oxford are just a few examples of complex moral areas in this specialised field.
Psychiatric nursing the study and treatment of mental disorders demands particular dedication and understanding from those nurses choosing a specialist discipline with little obvious sign of reward to the uninitiated.
It is disturbing therefore to read recent warnings in the press that the nursing profession is in difficulties with large numbers leaving the National Health Service for the private sector, nursing overseas or simply better paid jobs outside nursing. The cri de coeur that "nursing is a vocation" is no excuse for low wages or poor conditions.
The Royal College of Nursing always works to improve the pay and conditions of its members. However, as outlined already the caring and healing side of nursing as a vocation cannot be ignored, and is perhaps the most satisfying part of a nurse's work. The sense of job satisfaction must come high on any potential recruit's list of priorities.
The shortage of nurses at present in England and Wales is being eased by many hospitals recruiting in Ireland where there is an excess number of nurses. St Bartolomew's Hospital in London is one of many hospitals up and down the country who have recently carried out a recruitment drive in Ireland with great success.
The Mid-Downs Health Authority (covering part of northern Sussex) last month spent some time in Ireland, seeking both nursing and ancillary staff. The four hospitals within the authority which had vacancies were Cuckfield, Crawley, Horsham and The Forest Hospital.
Mid-Downs carried out 155 interviews in Ireland resulting in 104 appointments, 78 for nursing staff, staff nurses, sick children's nurses, staff midwives, nursing assistants, auxiliaries and operating department assistants. The remaining 26 job offers were for hospital ancillary staff. Graham Wood, the District Personnel Officer for the authority, was "overwhelmed" at the response to the local advertisements which preceded their visit. "The quality and enthusiasm of the candidates was very high, and it was a privilege to have been involved in this campaign which must be regarded as a success," he said.
"It was the first time a recruitment campaign of this magnitude had been undertaken by the authority and it depended upon high quality advertising, presentation interviewing and assessment skills", Mr Wood noted. He also commented on the cost of such a venture and said that the approximate expense was £75 per recruit which was highly cost effective, especially when compared to the lack of success obtained through conventional recruitment channels.
A major selling point for the Mid Downs Health Authority was the area's proximity to Gatwick Airport, with its regular flights to Dublin and other parts of Ireland, and the offer of accommodation particularly important in an area of high demand for housing. The authority has made use of video technology to encourage nurses to the area.
A valuable support for any Catholic nurse away from home perhaps for the first time, is the Catholic Nurses Guild which is an organisation of professional people who are concerned primarily with the life of the nurse on the spirituaf (evel. ft provides a forum for the exchange of ideas and mutual support among Catholic nurses.
The aim of the Guild is to cooperate with Jesus in the Church's healing mission to mankind, and to help the nurse to fulfill his/her command of loving service to our neighbour. The chief objectives are to promote the spiritual, professional and social development of its members. The Guild is organised at national, diocesan, and branch level.
Membership of the Guild today is more important than it has ever been, when nurses are facing so many moral and ethical dilemmas. The Guild can provide information, guilelines, and support to nurses who may encounter difficulties with regard to the morality of any nursing procedures.
The nursing profession desperately needs you if you have the right qualifications, the qualities of patience, dedication and a commitment to providing the highest standard of medical care on offer.
If you are interested in nursing, the following places will provide useful information a) your local hospital; b) The Royal College of Nursing, 20 Cavendish Square, London WI; c) The Catholic Nurses' Guild, 46 Fowberry Crescent, Fenham, Newcastle upon Tyne NE4 9XJ.