Don’t blame younger nurses who quit rather than accept poor conditions

The profession has risen to the challenge time and again as NHS resources dwindled, but younger nurses should be commended, not criticised, for saying enough is enough

The latest figures demonstrating the recruitment and retention crisis afflicting nursing include a startling statistic: among the thousands of nurses who quit in the past year, more than half were aged under 40.

So not only do we have an impending ‘bulge’ of staff who are nearing retirement, we cannot retain their younger counterparts either.

This should not come as a surprise to anyone. While acknowledging that this is a sweeping generalisation, research shows that people born since 1980 are not prepared to put up with what they consider to be unreasonable demands from their employers. Nor should they.

Workloads rise, resources fall

Over the past quarter of a century, nurses’ workloads have increased exponentially, while the resources at their disposal have failed to keep pace. When the government claims there has been a rise in the number of nurses on the wards, the figures involved fall a long way short of what is required for patients to receive the care they need and deserve.

Older nurses are impressively stoic in the face of such pressures, and have risen time and again to the challenge of doing more with less. But the next generation coming through should be commended, not criticised, for saying enough is enough.

The response from the government and the profession’s leaders must acknowledge that the national shortage of nurses requires a comprehensive and co-ordinated response that focuses on making nursing a career worth pursuing in the long term.

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