Career advice

A clinic to help staff make the most of their careers

Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust has set up a ‘safe space’ for nurses to discuss their professional aims 

Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust has set up a ‘safe space’ for nurses to discuss professional aims 

The clinic allows nurses to talk about their jobs. Photo: Tim George

Evidence shows that supportive working conditions, such as flexible working, along with access to continuing professional development and recognition for achievements can boost job satisfaction and help the workforce become more resilient.

But the research also shows a strong link between tailored professional development and job satisfaction, and that keeping people happy in their jobs requires a focus on career development and the aspirations of staff.

In February 2018, a careers clinic was set up at Royal Brompton Hospital to enable nursing staff to discuss their careers with senior nurses in a confidential and supportive environment.

Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust is the largest specialist heart and lung centre in the UK and among the largest in Europe. The trust consists of two sites - Royal Brompton Hospital and Harefield Hospital.

Safe space

The career framework initiative, which has been running successfully at Harefield Hospital since summer 2017, is a safe space for staff to talk about their career to date, the development opportunities available to them and any other issues related to their job and area of work.

‘The sessions involve a discussion about the individual’s career background, what is working well in their current role and what could be improved’

With changes to the nursing workforce, and the RCN estimating there are at least 40,000 nursing vacancies in England alone, the clinic aims to help retain current nursing staff, attract new staff to the trust and grow a resilient future nursing workforce.

The careers clinics at the Royal Brompton are run every month. They take place in private away from clinical areas and are facilitated by two senior nurses from each site with more than 20 years’ nursing experience. Attendees are given 30-minute, one-to-one slots, scheduled to ensure no overlaps to maintain confidentiality.

Flyers are posted around the trust to
publicise the clinic

Assessing current roles

The careers clinics are advertised monthly via a flyer sent by internal email to the trust’s senior nurses who are asked to cascade the information to their nursing teams. 

The nurse recruitment team also advertise on their vacancy bulletin board, and the facilitators raise awareness of the clinics to ensure as many staff as possible are able to attend.

The sessions involve a discussion about the individual’s career background, what is working well in their current role and what could be improved, and any career options they may have considered.

Themes that have emerged from the clinics so far include good team support, such as mentorship and appraisals, and opportunities for flexible working. 

Professional and academic development

Financial incentives offered by the trust have also been explored, such as funding for courses and sponsorship, and opportunities for career progression, including in-house training, leadership development and post-graduate education.

‘Staff say they found it helpful to talk through issues with colleagues who do not work directly in their clinical area’

Successful implementation of clinical academic careers in nursing requires good collaboration between healthcare organisations and higher education institutions. 

The trust works in close partnership with Buckinghamshire New University, University of West London, King’s College London and London South Bank University to deliver academic support to nurses interested in combining academic opportunities with the experience gained from caring for patients in the clinical environment.

Talking about well-being

Although most of the time slot is taken up with professional career advice, the sessions also cover the well-being of staff, who can speak openly and in confidence about any issues affecting them.

Discussions have taken place about how to maintain emotional health and well-being, for example, with staff being signposted to services offered by the trust, such as yoga classes.

If any safety concerns arise, we let attendees know that it may be necessary to involve other senior nursing colleagues. But, where issues have been raised so far, there has been no need to formally address these, with staff saying they found it helpful to talk through issues with colleagues who do not work directly in their clinical area.

Action points

At the end of the 30-minute session, the facilitator provides the attendee with a summary of what has been discussed, and action points are agreed on with a time frame for feedback with progress. 

Although the sessions are confidential, the attendee can discuss any issues that arise with their manager if they wish.

‘Feedback so far has been overwhelmingly positive and all 21 clinic attendees remain employed within the trust’

Recommendations from the clinics so far include using a streamlined internal transfer process to allow staff to work in different specialties within the trust, and introducing a career framework tool to enable staff to prepare before their career conversation to get the most out of the session.

Positive feedback

Between February 2018 and February this year, 21 staff members attended the Brompton clinic. Attendees ranged from band 5 to band 8, the majority being band 6, with staff coming from a range of clinical areas and having a variety of working patterns and hours.

All those who attended the clinic were offered the opportunity to return another time, with one staff member taking up this offer. Feedback so far has been overwhelmingly positive (see box) and all 21 clinic attendees remain employed by the trust.

Careers clinic feedback

  • ‘Thank you both for all of your help. I found it invaluable to discuss the options available and it was very motivating.’
  • ‘I am extremely grateful to you both for your advice during a very difficult time. I can now celebrate finding the perfect role.' 
  • ‘Thank you for the support, guidance and encouragement you gave me during our meeting.’
  • ‘Thank you very much for your kind assistance, support and care.’


The careers clinics continue to be taken up by nursing staff at the Royal Brompton Hospital. With more staff attending in the future, we will be able to review how successful the clinics are in retaining staff, alongside other recruitment and retention strategies.

Nicola Nation is senior nurse, nursing development, and Eva Zizkova is quality improvement nurse, paediatrics, at the Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust

RCNi Nursing Careers and Jobs FairsRCNi Nursing Careers and Jobs Fairs

RCNi Nursing Careers and Jobs Fairs are the largest CPD-accredited nursing recruitment events in the UK. Visitors can meet leading employers and agencies with immediate vacancies, and receive advice on finding a new job, revalidation, and climbing the career ladder.

If you're looking for a new job, or aiming to develop your nursing career, come along to our next event. Go to to book your free place today.

RCN Bulletin Jobs

RCN Bulletin Jobs is a one-stop resource for finding and applying for the best jobs in nursing and healthcare.

Hundreds of new posts are added every month and you can browse vacancies by field of practice, band or location.

Registration is quick, making it as simple as possible for you to take the next step in your career.

Find out more at

This article is for subscribers only