Strength in numbers

Could the problem of recruiting and retaining good nurses be solved by better networking opportunities? Ishbel Straker makes the case.

In the last couple of months, I have attended some really interesting conferences on addiction. I have had the privilege of spending time with colleagues in the field – consultants, doctors, psychologists, pharmacists, and a smattering of nurses.  I came away from these learning and networking opportunities questioning where are all the nurses?

Some weeks before these dates, I met with a nurse whose light had started to fade. They had come to me because they felt a dwindling lack of passion for their vocation and hoped for it to be reignited. We spent time together, but whatever came from our meeting feels slightly irrelevant if we as nurses are not taking care of our passion and giving ourselves the time and space to allow it to continue to burn.

I really do feel a step towards this is networking and seizing opportunities to meet with colleagues in the field. So the question I’ve been asking myself is why aren’t nurses attending these functions – and my two guesses are workload and organisational opportunities.

If nurses are carrying huge caseloads of complex clients then I appreciate it may not feel like a priority to travel across the country to attend a conference – but I would say that it needs to be made a priority. I also understand that there are certain staff that naturally attend conferences, and I would suggest that organisations need to look at this and alter the focus so others get the chance.

I cannot stress enough the need for nurses to expand on their learning, meet other nurses with a passion for the field, and feel valued by their employer. I guarantee that when services make a point of doing this for their nurses they will see a cultural change within the workforce, including better retention.

Not only is it inspiring to talk to others who are going through the same issues as you, but it encourages best practice and gives an opportunity to shout about it.

So, I challenge nurses and organisations over the next six months to encourage attendance at addiction conferences and be inspired! I hope to see you there!

Ishbel Straker is a clinical director, registered mental health nurse, independent nurse prescriber and board member of IntNSA

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