To improve care and representation in the NHS and throughout private practices, it is essential to increase the level of resources and opportunities to nurses looking to rise up to the challenge of an executive-level. Increasing representation throughout the NHS and especially in higher ranking positions means new insight. This insight can truly help shape a future that benefits all and doesn’t leave anyone behind. However, are we already starting to see and a change, and what else needs to continue?
Role models inspiring the next generation
With the release of the annual Powerlist ranking, it names the 100 most influential black people in Britain, and in their top ten is the indomitable Prof Dame Donna Kinnair, nurse and Royal College of Nursing’s Chief Executive and General Secretary. Ranking at number 6 this year, she continues a long ranking tradition of excellence and compassion.
The excellent men and women named in this year’s top 100 were chosen because they have spoken up and contributed to the increased debate about racial injustice. Having been featured in The Guardian this year and speaking up many times about racism in the NHS throughout her career. She is the UK’s second black female trade union leader and has been using her position to help forge a fairer NHS that provides the same level of care to all patients and to improve the quality of care for BAME patients, who are so often failed by the healthcare system.
Several other prominent nurses also made the Powerlist, with Manchester Metropolitan University’s Head of Nursing Professor Laura Serrant OBE, and NHS England’s Chief Midwifery Officer Professor Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent OBE. These nurses are proving to be just the right models to inspire the next generation of nurses to achieve similar pursuits.
Taking after these role models
Thankfully a lot has already been done to help more nurses further their careers across the board, thanks to the rise of online nursing programs. More nurses, however, need to be encouraged towards online DNP nurse executive programs, so that systematic and lasting change can be implemented by a new generation of thinkers and passionate men and women whose goal is to improve representation and support for BAME and all other nurses, as well as to improve the care of BAME patients in the UK.
Online courses and resources have been an instrumental first step, as they allow:
- Nurses from all locations to study from top-tier universities
The biggest benefit is certainly the fact that no longer are nurses either forced to relocate to where a top-quality university is to complete their studies or to suffer from sub-standard education. Instead, they can work on their degree remotely, allowing them to benefit from staying in their current situation or even considering moving to a more affordable area so that they can start to benefit from a higher quality standard of life. They can continue to work as a nurse, but without the pressure of being in a specific location to progress their career resources and talented staff can be distributed more evenly throughout the country.
- More efficient use of time when studying remotely
The second benefit that makes the furthering of education more accessible to every nurse is the ability to work remotely and, more importantly, on their own time. This means they don’t need to add to their commute and can instead make their current routines work within the bounds of their education. Being able to log in and put some hours or studying in when it suits the nurse best is one of the most powerful tools available.
- More support for nurses with families
By being able to work remotely, typically without mandatory log-in times, nurses can better manage their careers with their personal responsibilities. Parents can work on their degree while their children do their homework, for example, or a million other methods used to better balance responsibilities that would have been simply impossible with the old night school format.
There is still a long way to go in order to improve the state of nursing and the diversity of nurses in the workplace. This diversity isn’t just important for representation but will directly improve the quality of health and standard of care for BAME patients who currently are statistically brushed aside. The same problem persists with mental health and with overweight patients. By increasing representation, we increase the range of compassion and understanding from the nursing staff, enabling improved services for all patients around the UK.
There are a few ways to encourage greater representation amongst nurses, starting with education and advertising.
Improving visibility for nursing as a quality career
2020 has shone a new light into nursing. Many amongst the public revere nurses and respect them, but that reverence has not yet trickled up into parliament. With enough push from the public, greater resources, higher wages, and a greater emphasis on improving diversity amongst NHS staff, they can begin. The UK has a shortage of nurses and low new intake numbers, meaning that done right renewed interest in nursing as a career can come from all communities as a viable career option.
To do this, visibility needs to be made, and not just for RNs. By advertising high-level nursing roles and the potential of the career, we can inspire youth today to choose nursing as their primary goal.
Advancing and improving telehealth services
Telehealth has become essential due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and its potential means a huge relief on NHS resources and a means to connect and better serve the community at large. Nurses are at the forefront for providing the expertise behind telehealth and will be necessary to provide the front-face care and administrative duties that will see the true benefits of telehealth come to life.
What’s more, is that once again, the nature of telehealth as a career means that nurses can come from more remote areas, allowing them the benefits of affordable housing in the countryside. By increasing the number of remote positions (in healthcare and elsewhere), we can give residents the means to grow and strengthen rural communities, allowing more even development throughout the country.
Nursing is a wonderful career, and thanks to the hard work of Dame Donna Kinnair and other wonderful nurses, it is becoming more diverse and supportive. The NHS as a whole still has a lot to go in terms of change, but with the rise of new digital resources and telehealth, we will be able to expand services and improve the health and wellbeing of nurses everywhere.