Thursday, July 25, 2024

‘Flood’ of newly registered nurses unable to find jobs

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There has been ‘a flood’ of nurses unable to find a job upon registering, with some considering a degree change or opting for retail and cleaning work to avoid unemployment, Nursing in Practice has been told.

Head of engagement at the Florence Nightingale Foundation (FNF), Jess Sainsbury, said that while the ‘majority’ of newly registered nurses find an ‘appropriate role’ the foundation had been made aware that this had become a ‘growing problem’.

Ms Sainsbury, who is also co-chair of FNF’s Early Career Subject Expert Group, said: ‘We have also heard that students are considering changing degrees due to uncertainty about whether they can find a job.’

She said the situation was ‘especially concerning in the wake of the pandemic disruption to training and education, which has left so many of our newly registered nurses feeling devalued and unsupported’.

Meanwhile, speaking at the Royal College of Nursing’s Congress earlier this month, final year student at the University of Bolton, Heather McWha, said she would ‘most likely’ be left unemployed when she qualified in the coming weeks.

‘I am unemployed, and I will be unemployed most likely in eight/nine weeks’ time, the same as hundreds, maybe thousands of students in the UK,’ she said at the conference held earlier this month.

‘People are always going to say to me, “but there’s jobs, but there’s 40,000 vacancies”, and they are right, but not for newly qualified nurses.’

Ms McWha outlined how she had searched for Band 5 nursing jobs in her region and was pleased when 65 came up. However, once she’d reduced the roles to commuting distance only 15 of the vacancies were suitable.

However, all but one of these jobs required a minimum of six to 12 months of post-registration nursing experience, with many requiring an additional qualification in addition to a nursing degree.

This meant that there was only one local nursing job that was suitable for newly registered nurses in the area.

Outlining the situation for nurses in her area Karin Vertue, a second-year student at the University of Brighton, told Nursing in Practice: ‘Student nurses are often told that “there’s so many vacancies, you’ll walk into any job you like”.

‘For years it has been like this, but over the last two year’s it’s like they’ve been really trying to pull the reins in.

‘We’ve been talking about this for a while, but it’s almost like it’s been a secret.

‘There’s been a flood of newly qualified nurses speaking about how they are unable to find a job, but it’s not just affecting nurses, it’s also affecting GPs and allied health [professionals].’

In a post on social media site X, Ms Vertue described the ‘panic’ among student nurse groups about the lack of recruitment of newly registered nurses and warned that final year nursing students were working as healthcare assistants, cleaners and in retail to avoid unemployment.

Having opted for placements in primary care Ms Vertue also warned that not enough attention is being given to the employment opportunities in practice and community nursing roles, even if appetite exists among students.

‘Universities are very much angled towards going to work in a hospital,’ she told Nursing in Practice.

‘If anything can be done to make primary care more accessible for students that would be amazing.’

She suggested there was ‘a fear among student nurses that if you go into primary or community care that you will deskill, that is complete rubbish’.

‘You are told that working in community or primary care you deskill predominantly in actual hands-on skills and the identification of acute deterioration. But these are no longer hospital based experiences as 95 % of medical care now happens in the community.’

Professor Alison Leary, professor of healthcare and workforce modelling, told Nursing in Practice that the recruitment strain around registered nurses is adding to the ‘exploitation’ being faced by nursing associates.

She cautioned against criticism of nursing associates as some sort of ‘safety risk’, explaining that ‘the safety risk is the absence of registered nurses’.

Outlining the scale of the issue to Nursing in Practice, Ed Hughes, chief executive of the Council of Deans of Health, explained how members are reporting fewer vacancies ‘in some regions and for some job roles’.

There were over 31,000 vacancies in the registered nursing staff group as at 31 March 2024

In January the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) launched a review into its nursing and midwifery practice learning, in an effort to improve student learning within a range of care settings across the UK.

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