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New ‘buddies’ for future nurse leaders

Deputy directors of nursing in England offered mentoring by directors, in an effort to address challenges faced by those new in post and tackle high turnover
Ruth May

Englands future chief nurses are being buddied with more senior nursing counterparts, as part of a new programme of support from NHS Improvement (NHSI).

In an interview with Nursing Standard ahead of the official programme launch today, the regulators most senior nurses said the move would support NHS succession planning.

NHSI executive director of nursing Ruth May said all deputy directors of nursing had been invited to be matched with and receive mentoring from a director of nursing.

Identifying leaders

Dr May said: These are the people that are going to be the directors of nursing for the next 20 years. It makes sense to make sure we have future leaders at director level being identified and supported now.

Across the countrys 238 trusts, 92% of all directors

England’s future chief nurses are being buddied with more senior nursing counterparts, as part of a new programme of support from NHS Improvement (NHSI).


Ruth May: ‘It makes sense to support future leaders now.’ Picture: Barney Newman

In an interview with Nursing Standard ahead of the official programme launch today, the regulator’s most senior nurses said the move would support NHS succession planning.

NHSI executive director of nursing Ruth May said all deputy directors of nursing had been invited to be matched with and receive mentoring from a director of nursing.

Identifying leaders

Dr May said: ‘These are the people that are going to be the directors of nursing for the next 20 years. It makes sense to make sure we have future leaders at director level being identified and supported now.’

Across the country’s 238 trusts, 92% of all directors of nursing have agreed to mentor a deputy from a different, non-competitor trust over the coming year.

NHSI director of nursing for professional leadership Jacqueline McKenna stressed the programme was not mandatory, ‘but every deputy director of nursing in the country will have the opportunity to join this initiative’.

She said it would give deputies the chance to meet directors of nursing from trusts other than their own, and to see different leadership styles.

Troubleshooting problems

This new support is part of a range of measures aimed at attracting new leaders into posts and tackling high turnover among directors of nursing.

In September, Nursing Standard revealed that more than half of directors of nursing across England, Scotland and Wales had only been in post since 2014.

At the time, Dr May raised concerns that the number opting for early retirement at age 55 was exacerbating the situation.

In response, NHSI’s programme aims to encourage retiring directors of nursing to support first-time chief nurses and those in difficult circumstances, through part-time coaching opportunities and offering support for ‘challenged’ organisations.


Jacqueline McKenna says every deputy director of nursing will have the opportunity to join the initiative.
Picture: Barney Newman

‘We give people opportunities to continue to work so we don’t lose that expertise from the NHS completely, though they may retire from their post,’ Ms McKenna said.

Dr May acknowledged that times were ‘challenging’ for nurses in director roles and said resilience was a crucial part of leadership success.

‘We need to think about how we can provide peer support to directors of nursing when they need it, so they can continually succeed.’

Support for ​BME leaders

She said she felt more must be done to support black and minority ethnic (BME) nurses to move into deputy and director of nursing roles.

‘We need to be doing what we can to support the succession not just of aspiring directors of nursing from a BME background, but aspiring deputy directors of nursing.

‘We haven’t got a programme yet, it is much more about a mindset and what we all need to do.’


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