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Jane Bates: Nursing attrition and the erosion of team spirit

With little time for clinical supervision, team meetings or teaching opportunities, problems start to fester and the sense that people don’t matter becomes the norm, says Jane Bates.

With little time for clinical supervision, team meetings or teaching opportunities, problems start to fester and the sense that people don’t matter becomes the norm, says Jane Bates

The word attrition is often bandied about in nursing these days, along with the phrase that staff are ‘leaving in droves’.

attrition
Picture: iStock

As we know from ‘magic money tree’, words or phrases that are repeated too often can become clichés, and are either ignored or ridiculed.

But attrition really is the best word to describe what is happening to nursing. Workers not being replaced when they resign or retire, low pay, too much stress – these are all part of the attrition scenario.

While attending a course on bullying and harassment it struck me that there is more to it than that. The others on the course were from various professions within the NHS, and as we discussed the best way to deal with tricky interpersonal problems, the light began to dawn on what nurses have lost.

Bad feeling

They talked about clinical supervision, team meetings and teaching opportunities, so that when personnel complications arise they can be discussed sensitively and nipped in the bud. There is a chance to iron things out.

Is there time for that in nursing? Hardly ever. So problems fester and grow and the sense that individuals don’t matter becomes the norm. Nurses are naturally team workers, and bad feeling in a group can break us. Where staff are picked on or ignored, and no one seems to care, the only way forward is through the door marked ‘exit’.

Another definition of attrition is an act of weakening or exhausting by constant harassment, abuse or attack. Says it all.


Jane Bates is an ophthalmic nurse in Hampshire 
 

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