Nurses' 'tireless' efforts during pandemic inspires thousands to join ranks

12 May 2021, 06:01

Artist Peter Barber working on a mural in Manchester city centre, depicting nurse Melanie Senior
Artist Peter Barber working on a mural in Manchester city centre, depicting nurse Melanie Senior. Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

Nurses' "tireless" work during the coronavirus pandemic has seen a surge in nurses joining the ranks in the NHS, officials have said.

To mark International Nurses Day, health leaders have praised nurses' "remarkable response" to the crisis.

The NHS in England said that due to the "Nightingale effect" there are now thousands more nurses working in the health service after being inspired by the work of nurses during the pandemic.

Meanwhile nursing leaders said that the spotlight on nurses during the crisis has "shattered stereotypes".

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The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said that the pandemic has helped to dispel old-fashioned views such as that nursing is a predominately female or a "vocational" role.

Media reports have shown nurses on the frontlines of the crisis, battling to save the lives of patients.

District Nurse team leader Erica Daly, at Mersey Care NHS, as she stands in front of the 'Liver Bird Wings
District Nurse team leader Erica Daly, at Mersey Care NHS, as she stands in front of the 'Liver Bird Wings. Picture: PA

Meanwhile their "vital" role in the mass Covid-19 vaccination campaign has also been a point of interest.

The head of the NHS in England said that it was "no surprise" that the high profile of the profession during the pandemic had inspired others to join.

NHS England said that there were more than 11,000 more nurses, midwives and health visitors working in the NHS in England in January compared with January 2020 as well as an additional 5,195 healthcare support workers and assistants.

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Sir Simon Stevens, NHS chief executive, said: "Nurses, healthcare support workers and assistants have been at the forefront of the NHS's extraordinary response to the coronavirus pandemic.

"Their skill, professionalism and tireless work has made sure that the NHS treated all those Covid patients who could benefit and millions with other conditions.

"Nurses' dedication has also played a vital part in the hugely successful rollout of the NHS vaccination programme that has combined speed and precision in a way unrivalled around the world.

"Of course, nursing is not always easy but it is one of the most rewarding careers you can have so it is no surprise that given the profession's high profile over the last year many more people have been inspired to join the NHS's ranks by the so-called Nightingale effect.

"On International Nurses Day I want to say thank you on behalf of the whole country, to them and to and all their colleagues who have played a part in the remarkable NHS response to Covid."

The NHS said that a record 330,631 nurses were employed across NHS organisations in England in January 2021.

NHS England chief nursing officer Ruth May said: "Nurses have played a leading role in the fight against Covid and we are delighted to continue welcoming thousands of new nurses from all walks of life into the NHS, where they will have the opportunity to make a real difference.

"I would encourage anyone looking for a varied and rewarding career to consider joining us in the health service where there is an array of opportunities for those with and without healthcare experience."

Meanwhile a survey of 1,500 UK adults, commissioned by the RCN, found more than half (54%) said media coverage of the nurses' work during the pandemic has helped to improve their recognition of nurses' skills.

RCN acting chief executive and general secretary Pat Cullen said: "Outdated notions of nursing and nurses have failed to match the reality of a professional life defined by high-level technical, emotional and cognitive skills.

"Unfair stereotypes have inhibited efforts to improve the standing and attractiveness of nursing as a career at a time when there are tens of thousands of nursing vacancies in England alone.

"This poll suggests the amazing work that the public has seen nursing staff doing in the media during the pandemic has transformed that perception.

"This will give nurses a much-needed boost at a time when they are on their knees after a year of unprecedented challenges."