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HEE Chief Nurse Talks Nurse Wellbeing

Mark Radford, Chief Nurse, and Deputy Chief Nursing Officer with the HEE has spoken out about the issues facing nurses regarding their mental health and well-being.

In a recent speech at the Nursing Times Workforce Summit 2022, he touched upon both preceptorship and the effect of Covid-19 on the mental health of nurses, both during and since the pandemic.

Whilst expressing that HEE has been offering support, he acknowledged that the support was not always meeting the needs of nurses, especially as they begin their careers, with many nurses struggling with their initiation into nursing positions. Professor Radford believes it is “really fundamental” for early career nurses to communicate their needs and be heard.

Radford talked about the “school of hard knocks” and how nurses used to be thrown in at the deep end, but now, “Our student nurses and our newly qualifieds are looking for something different, and it’;s our responsibility to ensure that that’s in place.”

Some newly qualified nurses are struggling with their placements and the treatment they receive there, and the transition between education and practicing nursing is incredibly challenging. It has led to some NRNs leaving the profession, in what Radford called “A travesty”. He went on to state, “We’ve got to do everything we can do to change that,” pledging to “keep a really close eye and support on all of our staff around mental health and wellbeing.”

HEE are trying to improve how students are treated during placements, and a new “Clinical educator strategy” is being pursued. Professor Radford also said in his speech, “We’ve got to look after our students, because their time is really precious in placement.”

Nursing has long been a highly stressful, and the pandemic has only contributed to such issues. Many nurses contend with excessive stress, which leads to absences due to depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues.

Touching upon the ramifications of Covid-19 on the workforce and its impact on mental health, Radford warned of the mental affects not manifesting until years after the event, pointing to research that mental health damage can potentially lay dormant for up to seven years. Considering this, Radford said leaders should “keep a really close eye” on staff, and not underestimate the need for support surrounding mental health and wellbeing.

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