Strong nurse leadership still undermined by high turnover

Nursing Standard research shows turnover in nurse director roles remains unacceptably high, writes editor Graham Scott

An effective, well-led health and social care system is dependent on having strong clinical leadership at board level.

Not my words, but those of Christine McKenzie, lead of the RCN’s executive nurse network, in response to the latest findings of Nursing Standard’s annual survey of turnover among directors of nursing.

Unfortunately, the chances of NHS organisations enjoying effective leadership are being diminished by the rapid churn of nurses on their boards, which remains unacceptably high.

Worrying trend

This year’s survey produced results that are worryingly similar to those of previous years. Of the 225 NHS organisations across the UK to respond, 55% reported that their chief nurse has been in post for three years or less, up from 53% in 2016. One in six have taken on the role since the turn of the year.

Only in Northern Ireland is there a greater sense of stability, with four of the five nurse directors well established in their posts.

There is no simple explanation for the high turnover, but here are a few factors: a lack of preparation for nurses as they rise through the system; the best are poached by other, bigger organisations; those who struggle to cope receive inadequate support; and the role is so demanding that retirement is an attractive option for those who are eligible.

It is in the interests of everyone in the NHS to address this issue as a matter of priority.

Let’s support our nurse directors so that organisations can benefit from stronger, more stable leadership.

Read more