Covid‐19: Supporting nurses’ psychological and mental health

Maben, J., & Bridges, J. (2020). Covid‐19: Supporting nurses’ psychological and mental health. Journal of clinical nursing.

Here, the authors discuss the stressors and challenges and present evidence‐informed guidance to address the physical and psychological needs of nurses during the COVID‐19 pandemic. They stress the importance of peer and team support to enable positive recovery after acutely stressful and emotionally draining experiences, and outline what managers, organisations and leaders can do to support nurses at this most critical of times.

“I broke down and cried today. I cried of exhaustion, of defeat. Because after 4 years of being an ER nurse, I suddenly feel like I know nothing” (Sydni Lane, USA, Instagram and Facebook). (Fick , 2020)

“It’s an experience I would compare to a world war” Roberta Re, Italy. (Giuffrida, 2020)

“we’re on our knees here, and it’s really difficult and we’re all trying the best we can and we don’t feel… we feel like we could be doing more, and I know we can’t … we’re staying away from our families and we’re putting ourselves in danger to try and save other people’s loved ones, it feels like a losing battle but it’s not, we’ve all got hope and we’re all trying to do what we can.” (Shirley Watts, UK ICU Nurse, BBC news 04 April 2020)

As the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID‐19) pandemic takes hold, nurses are on the front line of health and social care in the most extreme of circumstances.

At the bedside 24 hr a day seven days a week, in similar outbreaks, nurses have had the highest levels of occupational stress and resulting distress compared with other groups (Cheong & Lee, 2004; Maunder et al., 2006; Nickell et al., 2004). Nurses are already a high‐risk group, with the suicide rate among nurses 23% higher than the national average (ONS, 2017). Despite this, the RCN (Royal College of Nursing in the UK) has reported that nurses feel “repeatedly” ignored by their employers when they raise concerns about their mental health (Mitchell, 2019). A focus on personal responsibility for psychological health and well‐being and an overemphasis on nurses being “resilient” in the face of under‐staffing and often intense emotional work is consistently challenged by nurses and nurse academics (Traynor, 2018). Treating resilience as an individual trait is seen to “let organisations off the hook” (Traynor, 2018), yet has often been the focus of organisational strategies to date. This does not work at the best of times and certainly is not appropriate now in these most difficult of circumstances (Edited, read the unedited version in the Journal of Clinical Nursing)

Read the full article here

More nurses should be coronavirus legacy says NHS chief

NHS England | May 2020 |More nurses should be coronavirus legacy says NHS chief

Speaking on International Nurses’ Day last week, NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens,  thanked nurses for all they have done during the greatest global health emergency in NHS history.

Sir Simon also called on universities to increase the number of places and give people interested in nursing more opportunities to sign up.

The NHS Health Careers website has seen a 220% rise in people expressing an interest in becoming a nurse.

As the NHS seeks to resume services paused during the coronavirus surge while continuing to care for thousands with the virus that interest should be translated in to greater nursing numbers.

Full story from NHS England

COVID-19: how it is affecting children and what nurses can do to help

Coyne, I. 2020. COVID-19: how it is affecting children and what nurses can do to help
Nursing Standard. 2.4.20

An opinion piece in the Nursing Standard outlines and provides tips on what nurses can do to support children and parents.

These include:

  • Be aware that children may be unduly distressed when being admitted to hospital
  • Help them to voice their concerns, feelings and any worries
  • Ask them what they know about the coronavirus and what they understand
  • Treat their responses with respect and correct any misconceptions
  • Make time for them to ask questions and provide simple, calm responses
  • Use creative means such as stories, games, drawings and toys to help explain information in a simple and engaging way
  • Think of the child’s age and tailor your responses to their developmental understanding
  • For children who are very anxious, ask them to write their worries on paper as naming their fears will help reduce the emotional impact (Source: Nursing Times)

COVID-19: how it is affecting children and what nurses can do to help


The NHS nursing workforce

This report aims to set out the facts on: the scale of the NHS nursing workforce challenge; the challenges to the main entry routes to NHS nursing and more general workforce-related challenges that any future plans will need to address; and the progress made on the People Plan.

Nurses are critical to the delivery of health and social care services, working across hospitals, community services, care homes and primary care. In 2019, around 519,000 people in England were registered to practise as a nurse, while the NHS employed 320,000 nurses in hospital and community services, making up about a quarter of all NHS staff.

In January 2019, the NHS Long Term Plan acknowledged the need to increase staff numbers, noting that the biggest shortfalls were in nursing. The NHS set up the People Plan programme to decide how it would secure the workforce it needed to meet its future service commitments. This report defines workforce planning as the analysis and plans required to ensure that the NHS has the number and type of staff it needs, now and in the future.

This report sets out the facts on:

  • the scale of the NHS nursing workforce challenge;
  • the challenges to the main entry routes to NHS nursing and more general workforce-related challenges that any future plans will need to address; and
  • the progress made on the People Plan.

Full report: The NHS Nursing Workforce

Nurse numbers increase by 8,570 in the past year

The number of nurses has gone up as the government works to increase nursing numbers in the NHS by 50,000 in the next 5 years | Department of Health & Social Care

Since 2010, there have been increases of more than:

  • 20,000 more doctors
  • 18,500 more nurses, midwives and health visitors
  • 4,900 more paramedics

The government has said there will be 50,000 more nurses and 6,000 more doctors in general practice by 2025. This will be supported by £33.9 billion of funding a year for the NHS by 2024 to 2025, which is being made law.

The latest UCAS statistics show the number of nursing applicants to English universities has risen for the second year running. There have been 35,960 applicants to nursing and midwifery courses at English universities in 2020 – a 6% rise compared to 2019.

Full story at Department of Health & Social Care

Matron’s handbook for aspiring and experienced matrons

NHS Improvement | February 2020 |Matron’s handbook

This handbook is a practical guide for those who aspire to be a matron, those who are already in post, and for organisations that want to support this important role.

It can be used to prepare ward, department and service leaders for the matron’s role, and to support newly appointed matrons. 

Although some aspects remain the same: providing compassionate, inclusive leadership and management to promote high standards of clinical care, patient safety and experience; prevention and control of infections; and monitoring cleaning of the environment. The role has also grown significantly, to include: workforce management; finance and budgeting; education and development; patient flow; performance management; and digital technology and research (Source: NHS Improvement). .

The matron’s handbook

New framework launched provides core capabilities clarity for advanced level nurses in primary care/general practice, promoting a high standard of patient care

Skills for Health | January 2019 | New framework launched provides core capabilities clarity for advanced level nurses in primary care/general practice, promoting a high standard of patient care

A framework launched this week provides clarity around the core capabilities required by advanced level nurses working in primary care/general practice and will promote a high standard of care for those utilising the services. It will allow nurses to showcase their advanced level knowledge, skills and behaviours which will be essential in the development of the multi-professional teams to provide excellent prevention and care for people accessing their services.

This framework sets a standard regarding the academic knowledge, skills and behaviours required to enable the highest standards of practice within primary care and general practice. It will support nurses working at an advanced level to demonstrate and evidence their capabilities to service commissioners, employers, people utilising health care and the public. (Source: Skills for Health).
Image source:

Royal College of General Practitioners  & Skills for Health

The Core Capabilities Framework for Advanced Clinical Practice (Nurses) Working in General Practice/Primary Care in England 

Further information is available from Skills for Health 


District Nursing Today

The UK’s District Nurse workforce is under severe threat due to long-term underinvestment in training, education and skills, posing a direct threat to patient safety, according to independent report, commissioned by the Queen’s Nursing Institute (QNI)

Image source:

Findings of a new report reveal an evolving healthcare workforce crisis, set against a backdrop of rising demand for district nursing services across all UK regions.

This study shows that for District Nurses (DNs), working conditions, pay, education and training have not improved since the previous QNI report was published (2014). If anything, conditions, lack of support and career development for DNs has deteriorated further, leading to:


  • Working large amounts of unpaid overtime: One in five (22%) of respondents work a day or more of unpaid overtime each week.
  • An ageing workforce heading for retirement: 46% of respondents planning to either retire or leave in the next six years
  • Lack of IT support to do the job efficiently: 36% of respondents reported that Information Technology, or lack access to efficient IT systems, connectivity and support infrastructure is one of the main factors making their role more difficult to sustain
  • The lack of training and development available to District Nurses is a key factor reported to be influencing those looking to leave the profession.
  • Unmanageable caseloads per individual is cited as another challenging factor with almost 30% of teams having a caseload of over 400 patients/people
  • Insufficient time to devote proper care to patients. 63% respondents say they defer visits or delay the delivery of patient care on a daily basis
  • Stagnation and lack of progression in the workforce: 75% of respondents state they have vacancies or ‘frozen posts’ in their teams
  • No administrative support: 28% of respondents have no access to administrative support staff
  • Variation in pay of District Nurses acting as team leaders and significant regional variation in the pay band of District Nurses holding the Specialist Practitioner Qualification.

Full report: District Nursing today: the view of District Nurse Team Leaders in the UK

See also: Sharp Decline in District Nursing Workforce Poses Direct Threat to Patient Safety | QNI

RCN: 100 years of nursing: Always Caring, Always Nursing campaign

Royal College of Nursing | September 2019 | Always Caring, Always Nursing

This year the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) is celebrating 100 years of professional nursing with the anniversary of the Nurses Registration Act 1919. In the coming months, they’ll be celebrating the personal stories of nurses from across the UK who have dedicated their careers to caring for people with skill, care and compassion. always-caring-always-nursing
Image source: always-caring-always-nursing

View the 100 years of professional pride timeline 

Read the stories of four dedicated nurses:

Jan’s story

Claire’s story 

Alison’s’ story 

Leanne’s story 

The General Practice Nurse Education Network

General Practice Nurse Education Network | August 2019 | The General Practice Nurse Education Network

This network is part of a number of initiatives arising from the General Practice Nursing 10 point plan. The General Practice Nurse Education Network  (GPNEN)  provides a repository of online resources to assist those nurses working in General Practice to have a “one-stop shop” when looking for continuing professional development initiative and support. adult-blood-care-1350560

It also works to provide a framework for GPN practice education roles within primary care. Provide guidance and resources to primary care about how the new Nursing and Midwifery Standards for student supervision and assessment are applied

It also provides information for student nurses and those new to General Practice Nursing (Source: GPNEN).

A range of resources are available from the GPNEN

Full details about the Network are available from the General Practice Nurse Education Network