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Implement safe staffing to solve recruitment crisis, says nurse expert

Specialist in nurse safe staffing research Linda Aiken says the government must use targeted interventions to make the profession attractive as a career again

Specialist in nurse safe staffing research Linda Aiken says the government must use targeted interventions, such as implementing safe staffing, to make the profession attractive as a career again

 ‘England used to be top of the international pyramid’ for nursing careers
Linda Aiken: ‘England used to be top of the international pyramid’ for nursing careers'

Implementing safe staffing ratios would solve the workforce crisis in England, according to an expert in the field.

Linda Aiken, a specialist in nurse safe staffing research, roused nurses into rapturous applause on the issue at the RCN International Nursing Research Conference, held in Sheffield this week.

Dr Aiken, a University of Pennsylvania professor of nursing and an RCN honorary fellow, said workforce shortages should not be used as an excuse for inaction.

Making England an attractive place to work as a nurse again

‘I feel your pain, you have had so many challenges… but it’s been going on for decades and you can’t use this as an excuse for not doing anything about it,’ she said.

Dr Aiken said it was clear that 'nurses were killing themselves trying to do their best’ but said targeted safe staffing interventions were needed to bring retired nurses back and make workplaces stand out as attractive places to work.

‘No one wants to work in England anymore – England used to be at the top of the international pyramid, everyone wanted to work here, but it’s seen as too hard, salaries are too low, everything is too hard,’ she said.

She added that looking for evidence from safe staffing interventions in Scotland and Wales could help present a case and force government to act.

Good hospital management can find solutions to healthcare staff shortages 

Later, she told Nursing Standard that, even in times of workforce crises, there were hospitals with good vacancy rates, proving that good management and creativity did produce solutions.

Dr Aiken also said NHS employers could pay back newly-qualified nurses’ student loans if they guaranteed to remain with the organisation for a set period.

During her speech, Dr Aiken presented evidence from Queensland, Australia, in which a 1:4 nurse to patient ratio had been implemented on day shifts in acute adult medical surgical wards and a 1:7 ratio at night.

This prevented 145 deaths in the first two years of implementation, saved 29,222 hospital days and made cost savings of around £16 million.


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