Career advice

NHS trust's careers clinics are opening doors for its staff nurses

Band 5 and 6 nurses at one of the UK's largest employers are benefiting from a novel approach to career development, which is helping boost retention rates

When University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (UCLH) interviewed band 5 and 6 nurses to find out why so many of them were leaving, and what it could do to keep them, their answers led to a new careers clinic that is making a real difference.

‘Staff nurses need a range of experience to become rounded professionals,’ says deputy chief nurse Lorraine Szeremeta.

For a start, staff nurses were unaware of job opportunities in different wards. Even if they were able to apply for a transfer, they had to re-do assessments and criminal records checks.

‘So we decided to make it easier for them,’ says Ms Szeremeta. ‘If you are a band 5 nurse and you are good enough to be able to work in a surgical ward at UCLH then you should be good enough to work in a medical ward or a haematology ward at the same level.’

The trust – which can find out about transfers and use a streamlined process to move. And it’s working brilliantly, says Ms Szeremeta. In a pilot project last summer, 30 nurses attended the careers clinic and 13 transferred.

By early March 2016, more than 80 nurses had attended, 37 had transferred successfully and more than 40 were waiting for a job to come up. Band 5 and 6 turnover dropped from 16% (comparable to the rest of London) to below 7.5%. ‘These are nurses who would otherwise have left us,’ says Ms Szeremeta.

The clinic is now open to band 2 nursing assistants.

NHS human resources specialist Natalie Shamash was recruited to set up about streamlining.

A band 5 or 6 nurse who wants to move sideways starts by talking to Ms Shamash, before writing a 250-word personal statement explaining why he or she wants to move. Up to three specialties of interest can be selected.

If this is approved, the next step is a five-point questionnaire for the nurse’s line manager, to establish the nurse’s competence, if they are in the probationary period, and what notice period applies. ‘The questions are all part of the normal recruitment process,’ says Ms Shamash.

After clearing this stage, the nurse can be put forward for transfer, provided their area would not be left understaffed.

Nurses say the process is quick and easy (see interviews below). In a few cases, band 6 nurses have moved into band 5 posts in emergency care or critical care to round their experience. Some have even taken a pay drop.

Ms Szeremeta explains: ‘There are areas that are too specialised for a straight transfer. We could not allow a band 6 respiratory nurse to transfer at band 6 to emergency care, for example. The careers clinic allows them to move without the embarrassment you would have being a band 6 applying for a band 5 post.’

She suggests that the same principle of ‘good enough for one area, good for all’ could apply to other organisations.

‘My vision would be to have this adopted across several hospitals in London,’ she says. ‘This has been a fantastic project. Yes, there were financial savings, but this is about keeping nurses by giving them every opportunity to develop’.

Interviews: two nurses who have been through the process

Was: Band 5 nurse, neurosurgery ward, National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, London

Now: Band 5 nurse, critical care, University College Hospital (UCH)

Her thoughts…

About the careers clinic: ‘The entire process is simple, which saved a lot of time and frustration. It gives nurses the opportunity to work in areas they are passionate about and where they want to pursue careers, without having to relocate to another trust.’

About her move: ‘This has definitely been the right change for me, since critical care was always the area where I wanted to work. I am learning new things on every single shift.’

Was: Band 6 theatre nurse, National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery

Now: Band 5 emergency care nurse, UCH

Her thoughts…

About the careers clinic: ‘It helped me deal with the entire process, explaining all the steps and answering my concerns promptly. The staff booked me the interview and it turned out to be very fast and easy.’

About her move: ‘It was an excellent move. I wanted to develop my skills and challenge myself professionally and the emergency department is definitely allowing me to do so. I am happy with the change.’

Was: Band 6 senior anaesthetic nurse, National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery

Now: Band 6 metabolic research nurse at same hospital

Her thoughts…

About the careers clinic: ‘I would 100% and without hesitation recommend the careers clinic and most importantly Natalie Shamash, as she has been absolutely amazing.’

About her move: ‘I have been able to put my organisational skills into practice, which is fantastic. My new working hours are also perfect for my childcare, which was the most important thing for me and my family.’

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