Suffolk and Essex celebrate International Nurses’ Day as figures show vacancies are increasing

Maddie O’Brien, endoscopy department sister at West Suffolk Hospital. Picture: WEST SUFFOLK NHS FOUN

Maddie OBrien, endoscopy department sister at West Suffolk Hospital. Picture: WEST SUFFOLK NHS FOUNDATION TRUST - Credit: WEST SUFFOLK NHS FOUNDATION TRUST

The number of nursing posts going unfilled in the East of England has increased by 20% over two years, latest figures reveal.

Dawn Collins, director of nursing, quality and patient safety at Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation

Dawn Collins, director of nursing, quality and patient safety at Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT). Picture: NSFT - Credit: NSFT

Statistics from NHS Digital show there were 3,615 registered nursing and midwifery vacancies in the region between July and September 2017.

This was a jump from 3,008 in the same period in 2015.

The startling numbers are being highlighted on International Nurses’ Day.

The event is held annually on May 12 to mark the anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth and aims to celebrate the outstanding contribution nurses make each and every day.

Matt Jackson, ward manager on Avocet Ward at Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust's (NSFT) Woodl

Matt Jackson, ward manager on Avocet Ward at Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust's (NSFT) Woodlands unit in Ipswich. Picture: NSFT - Credit: NSFT

Teresa Budrey, eastern regional director of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “Across the country you will find nurses who lead on healthcare policy, help their communities and transform people’s lives – what they all have in common is their dedication to delivering outstanding patient care.

“Challenges continue to persist across the health service, including the difficulties posed by recruitment and staff shortages, but nursing staff devote themselves to doing the best they can for their patients.”

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There are currently 141 registered nurse vacancies at Ipswich Hospital, 164 at Colchester Hospital and 90 at West Suffolk Hospital.

All three trusts are working to recruit from overseas.

Ipswich Hospital has offered jobs to 93 nurses from the Philippines, and West Suffolk Hospital has also appointed 55 nurses from the country.

West Suffolk Hospital is going down other avenues to fill gaps, including offering welcome and retention incentives.

The trust also has a new nursing apprenticeship starting in September.

Jan Bloomfield, West Suffolk Hospital’s executive director workforce and communications, said: “The NHS is struggling nationally to recruit nurses and our trust is not immune to this.”

Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) is facing similar struggles recruiting nurses, and is also offering recruitment premiums for some posts.

Despite these pressures, nurses in the region have spoken about why they love their job and why the role is so important in the NHS.

Dawn Collins, interim director of nursing at NSFT, worked as a nurse for more than 30 years.

She said: “As a nurse, it is both humbling and a privilege to care for people when they are at their lowest points in their lives.

“It is important for people when they are at their most vulnerable to know that a nurse will look after their fundamental needs and care for them in a safe place.”

Maddie O’Brien, endoscopy department sister at West Suffolk Hospital, said being a nurse was a “privilege and honour”.

“There are not many professions where people place their absolute trust in you and allow you into their lives for a short window,” she said.

“The role of a nurse is so important in the NHS. We are very accessible to our patients; they talk openly to you and you support them.

“As nurses we follow a strict code of conduct, which is also the foundation of the NHS; our patients are our priority, and we are advocates for them and their dignity, we care for them and we reassure them.”

Ms O’Brien said nurses were under pressure in the NHS due to rising patient demand and recruitment problems.

But she added: “Being a nurse is both a privilege and an honour. We are so appreciated by our patients, and it really does feel like you’ve made a difference, even at the end of a busy shift.”

Tracey Boon is a sister on Ipswich Hospital’s longer-stay surgical and gastroenterology ward.

She said: “I love my job, it’s so varied and unpredictable. I don’t like routine so not knowing what each day is going to bring suits me.

“We get our long-term patients and see them in the good and bad times, offering that additional support network, and many will return to visit or fundraise for the ward to say thank you.

“We also get a good proportion of patients who have been transferred to us from intensive care, having spent time on there. They could have had complex surgery or may have had sepsis or some respiratory or liver failure.

“At the other end of the spectrum you get totally independent patients who might be suffering from colitis or Crohn’s and can’t stop going to the loo.”

Ms Boon has worked for the NHS for more than 20 years.

Matt Jackson is manager of the mental health inpatient Avocet Ward at the Woodlands unit in Ipswich run by NSFT.

With almost 20 years’ experience in nursing, Mr Jackson now uses his management role to ensure the trust’s IT systems work well for those delivering care.

He said: “Working in nursing gives me a good idea what nurses need from technology to do their jobs, translating IT into real-world clinical care on the wards.”

Mr Jackson joined NSFT in 1999 as a temporary clinical support worker and then underwent his mental health nurse training.

“Nursing is about developing relationships so we understand service users’ needs and goals,” he said. “The best bit is when you feel you’ve made a difference to someone’s life and helped them on the road to recovery.”

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