Benjamin Hyde, Matron at Glenfield Hospital, part of University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, shared his insight with Hospital Hub…
A recent Government report[i] warned that the NHS could be short of almost 70,000 nurses within five years. Staff shortages in nursing and midwifery are the biggest single challenge facing the NHS[ii].
One of the ways University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust is tackling this is encouraging retired nurses back into the profession and also promoting Return to Practice opportunities. As well as my nursing role I am also the recruitment lead and I believe this approach is hugely beneficial for the Trust, patients and nurses.
Leicestershire NHS wholeheartedly welcomes retired and return to practice nurses, and we support nurses that want to do this. In fact, Leicester is one of the first NHS Trusts that is actively trying to get retired nurses to come back to work.
We value their knowledge and experience, especially nurses that have worked a long time. We want them to work alongside the younger and newer nurses, to support their learning on the wards. Nothing can match experience and it’s great that the Trust recognises this.
Individuals benefit financially and by being able to go back to a job they enjoy. Studies have shown that for many older people continuing to work is good for physical and mental wellbeing too.
For nurses it can also be an opportunity to follow a different pathway. For instance those that have worked their way up to a high grade such as ward sister may want to step back from a management role to focus solely on the clinical aspect of nursing.
We have lots of opportunities for nurses to return. One route is the Trust offers nurses a practice or temporary contract as a healthcare assistant or non-registered nurse. This means they are supported through their training and get hands-on experience which is essential, especially if they have been out of the job a long time.
The Trust also supports the Return to Nursing HEI Programmes, which prepares nurses for re-entry onto the professional register, with clinical placements which is an essential requirement for returning to the NMC register as a nurse or midwife. The trust provides the RTP student with placements that have learning opportunities and support to enable them to successfully complete their programme requirements. The trust will also, with the help of the RTP Lead and recruitment Leads support them though the process of gaining employment with us.
Another option for registered nurses is retiring and returning to work part-time or as a bank nurse. One of our former ward nurses, 61 year old Sue Bell chose this route after retiring in 2017 and is now a bank nurse.
Sue is a very experienced nurse and has been doing it all her life, after training at what is now Leicester’s De Montfort University when she was 20. She has worked at Glenfield Hospital throughout her career, but has done bank and agency nursing at other hospitals too.
After taking a career break in 1984, to look after her family, Sue returned to nursing in 1998 at Glenfield Hospital. As well as working, Sue studied to improve her skills and get up to date with the current ways of working. She successfully completed a diploma and degree in nursing at De Montfort University.
Sue said that when she first returned to nursing after 14 years things had changed and nurses were taking on far more responsibility. For example, when she started nurses wouldn’t usually do intravenous medication but when she came back even those new to nursing would be expected to be able to put in an IV drip.
The role and workload had expanded tremendously too. Nurses were given a lot more autonomy and encouraged to have the confidence to question doctors or other medical professionals if they don’t feel they are taking the right course of action too.
This is one of the things Sue found quite difficult at first as she hadn’t been used to questioning a doctor’s judgement. However, she points out this meant nurses were treated with a lot more respect and had a far more important and prominent role in patient care than they ever used to.
Explaining why she decided to return to work after retiring Sue says that she wasn’t ready to retire, but wanted to spend a bit more time looking after her grandchildren. Being a bank nurse enables her to do this and to work more flexibly. She usually works two or three shifts a week, although she does more during busy periods.
When asked if she finds the role challenging as she’s got older, Sue says she doesn’t and can’t imagine retiring fully, as she still has the same energy and passion for nursing as she did when she first started. She is really enjoying bank nursing as it’s all about working with patients, unlike her last role as ward sister which included a lot of back office and administrative work.
Sue loves the clinical side of the role and seeing people get better and leave hospital. She also enjoys spending time with the other nurses too and sharing her knowledge and experience. She highly recommends other retired nurses consider returning to work, whether that’s in a part-time role or as a bank nurse like herself.
She adds that her experience returning after retiring has been fantastic. She’s been fully supported by the hospital and is thoroughly enjoying continuing her nursing career. Some people may feel that as they get older they are unable to work as much, so taking on a more flexible role like bank nursing or part-time roles is a good way to continue working.
We encourage nurses who are looking to return to practice or those considering retiring to find out what opportunities are available. Our Trust really appreciates the experience and knowledge that nurses have built up and we would love for them to stay or return in some capacity.