Headlines: March 25th, 2002

The Royal College of Nursing is making a bid to improve the lot of nurses – who are seen as essential to achieve the NHS Plan and yet are leaving the service in worrying numbers.The nurses’ organisation has launched a new guidance document to help employers improve the working lives of nurses in the UK – based on the findings of a survey which shows that nurses generally place high imporatnce on their ‘working wellbeing’.

The RCN surveyed 6,000 nurses and found that 50% of nurses surveyed did not have access to employee-friendly working arrangements, including childcare support, self-rostering, flexible working or dependants’ leave. Given that two-thirds of nurses have children or other dependants to care for, flexibility of working hours is a key factor in creating a balance at work and at home. Some employers do not offer the most basic of facilities – 25% of nurse do not have a staff room in which to take breaks or changing facilities.

Eleven per cent of nurses displayed significant signs of poor psychological health, particularly symptoms of depression and anxiety. Investigation showed that poor psychological health was directly related to increased sickness absence – nurses with low/poor psychological health had twice the level of sickness absence compared with the rest of nurses surveyed.

Thirty per cent of nurses on long-term sick leave said they experienced bullying. A third of all nurses had been harassed or assaulted by a patient, or their relatives, in the year up to the survey.

‘Working Well: a call to employers’ identifies employment practices that the RCN says need to be established to ensure nurses’ wellbeing and commitment to their jobs.

Link: www.rcn.org.uk