Client News: The Voice of Nursing during COVID-19

7 Jul, 2020

If there’s one thing we’ve learnt during the coronavirus pandemic, it’s the importance of nursing.  So, it seems only right that the World Health Organization (WHO) have chosen the year 2020 as the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife.  Whilst nurses and health care support workers haven’t changed what they do over recent months, they have stepped up and intensified their working in order to get us through the pandemic.  We caught up with our clients, The Royal College of Nursing (RCN), to see how they’ve been managing through these difficult times.

The voice of nursing across the UK

The RCN have been supporting nurses and promoting the importance of nursing staff since 1916 when they opened their doors as The College of Nursing, a professional organisation with just 34 members.  Today, they are the world’s largest nursing union and professional body, representing more than 450,000 members both within the UK and internationally.  Their members include nurses, student nurses, midwives and nursing support workers who work in a variety of hospital and community settings in the NHS and independent sector.  They promote both patient and nursing interests on a wide range of issues by working closely with the Government, UK parliaments and other national and European political institutions, trade unions, professional bodies and voluntary organisations.

Rising to the challenge

Prior to the pandemic, the RCN had 900 staff members working across 16 offices in the UK but following Government advice to work from home, had to close their doors in March and are yet to reopen.  Like many businesses, the RCN have been forced to adapt to home working which has brought new challenges to the organisation.  Health, Safety and Wellbeing Manager, Jill Thornton comments: “many of our staff have not worked from home before so found this challenging; from new ways of working, ensuring technology worked and personal challenges such as isolation, home schooling and coping with the pandemic.  Work has intensified for many with the demands on our services to support nursing staff in the time of crisis”.

Jill continues: “to overcome these challenges, we’ve provided lots of information for staff and managers.  We already have mental health first aiders and access to an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) but added additional mental health support for teams.  We also rolled out access to Microsoft Teams to enable better collaborative working and identified roles that had spare capacity to help support those teams whose workload had increased”.

Supporting the team who support our nurses

Since the pandemic, the organisation has rolled out two health and wellbeing initiatives to staff, both of which were particularly relevant to working from home.  Jill adds “we have written FAQ’s covering lots of COVID-19 issues and provided information on working safely during this time, including advice of musculoskeletal health and mental welling.  We recently held a virtual working parents coffee morning and have increased promotion of our three staff networks which are in place to provide support for staff and ensure consultation takes place with everyone.   We work in partnership with our staff trade union.  Our staff survey reported that communications within teams have been crucial both for work and social purposes”.

By supporting their team, the RCN have been able to continue providing an excellent service for their members.  Jill continues: “the voice of nursing has increased significantly due to our media presence.  The Executive Team have been very active with press statements and our General Secretary/CEO has given evidence to Health and Social Care Select Committee’s Management of the Coronavirus Outbreak Inquiry, ensuring the key priorities and concerns of nursing staff across the UK were heard particularly on PPE and testing”.

The future

Like many businesses, the RCN are now reviewing their Working from Home Policy after seeing the benefits it can bring such as saving on time, costs and reducing their environmental impact.  A recent staff survey also revealed that most staff seem content to work from home for the time being and would like the opportunity to continue with this new way of working in the future, having the option to visit the office when required.

Could you support the RCN Foundation?

Could you improve the basic living standards of a retired nurse? Fund the study of the next generation? Or help improve the communication skills of a cancer nurse?

The RCN Foundation is part of the RCN group but are an independent charity who support the entire nursing team, whether they are a member of the RCN or not.  This service provides grants for nursing-led research and projects as well as education and hardship, support professionals to innovate, develop their careers and get through tough times.

Find out more and make a donation here: https://rcnfoundation.rcn.org.uk/get-involved/make-a-donation

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