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Stroke nursing: career framework will attempt to bolster specialist workforce

UK needs to educate and retain many more stroke care specialist nurses
Caroline Watkins

UK needs to educate and retain many more stroke care specialist nurses

A career framework designed to attract and retain nurses to specialist stroke roles is to be developed.

The framework is intended to ensure there are sufficient specialist stroke to fulfil the UK stroke plan, to be published shortly.

The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) will develop the framework with the RCNs north west regional branch, as well as the National Stroke Nursing Forum and the UK Stroke Forum.

Four career pathways

The framework will set out four career pathways that newly trained and established specialist stroke nurses can follow. These pathways are expected to focus on guiding nurses into clinical, leadership, research, or educational roles.

The group will be building on the existing stroke education framework, which already sets out 16 areas in which specialist

UK needs to educate and retain many more stroke care specialist nurses


Professor Watkins

A career framework designed to attract and retain nurses to specialist stroke roles is to be developed.

The framework is intended to ensure there are sufficient specialist stroke to fulfil the UK stroke plan, to be published shortly.

The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) will develop the framework with the RCN’s north west regional branch, as well as the National Stroke Nursing Forum and the UK Stroke Forum.

Four career pathways

The framework will set out four career pathways that newly trained and established specialist stroke nurses can follow. These pathways are expected to focus on guiding nurses into clinical, leadership, research, or educational roles.

The group will be building on the existing stroke education framework, which already sets out 16 areas in which specialist stroke practitioners must demonstrate knowledge and skills.

Professor Dame Caroline Watkins, the UK’s only nursing professor of stroke care and head of UCLan’s stroke research team, will help develop the career framework, having previously worked on the stroke education framework.

Speaking at a National Stroke Nursing Forum conference hosted by UCLan on 25 June, Professor Watkins said: ‘Currently, many patients are not getting the right care because we do not have staff with the right knowledge and skills, and enough of them, to deliver optimum stroke care, from preventing stroke to supporting people in having a life after stroke.’

Half of hospitals’ stroke units understaffed

In 2016, an audit of stroke care by the Royal College of Physicians found only 51% of hospitals in England, Wales and Northern Ireland had sufficient senior nurses on their stroke units.

The national clinical guideline for stroke recommends hyperacute stroke wards employ 2.9 whole-time-equivalent nursing staff per bed, 80% of whom should be specialist stroke nurses, supported by 20% unregistered staff; acute stroke units should have 1.35 staff per bed, of whom 65% should be specialist nurses.

Training and retention

Professor Watkins told Nursing Standard: ‘To attract nurses to the profession we will be promoting Stroke Facts, an online course aimed at undergraduate nursing students that clearly sets out the requirements that are fundamental to understanding stroke care.

‘To retain those who’ve already obtained the specialist training, we will highlight the various pathways through which their expertise can be fully recognised and used. The framework will mainly be about highlighting what is already available, but where we identify gaps we will be able to develop areas where careers can be enhanced.

‘Stroke is a big problem and it is not going away, so the need for specialist nurses is great.

‘It’s an exciting area to work in and I have always been impressed with how close-knit the community of professionals is that nurses can share with and learn from.’

NHS England is leading the development of the national stroke plan, which is expected to be published shortly.


More information

Stroke-Specific Education Framework

National Clinical Guideline For Stroke



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