Nurse recruitment is, to put it mildly, a pretty tough nut that NHS organisations across the country are struggling to crack. To sell the idea of joining the team at Sussex Partnership, we concluded our fantastic nurses would be the best people for the job.
"We have increasing numbers of staff and services taking to social media to promote the organisation’s work, and the number of nominations for our annual Positive Practice Awards – created to share and celebrate the things we do well - has doubled to 320 in the space of a year."
Nurses are the backbone of the NHS. In mental health care, they play a vital role in helping people on their journey towards recovery. But it’s about as far from being an easy job as you can get. The intense, unprecedented, sustained demand mental health services are now facing places huge strain and responsibility on staff. So, on the face of it, persuading people to come and work in mental health nursing isn’t the easiest sell in the world.
But when you listen to our nurses talk about what they do, what really shines through is their genuine passion, compassion and commitment to patient care. This is what led us down the path of creating the ‘not just a job’ theme for our nurse recruitment campaign. Our nurses told us working in mental health care, for them, is so much more than that.
Another factor which shaped our thinking about the campaign is the evidence that points to the powerful role staff can play as advocates for their employer – if they feel valued, supported and engaged. We’ve been doing a huge amount of work at Sussex Partnership over the last three years to create the kind of culture and working environment that will help people feel this way – on the basis that positive staff experience equates to a positive one for patients and families.
We worked with staff to overhaul our values - and move beyond the idea that you can stick them on a pretty poster and it’s job done; define a new strategy to develop ‘outstanding care and treatment you can be confident in’ (Our 2020 Vision) and create structures that devolve more decision-making powers to clinicians, closer to where patients are treated.
We’re on an improvement journey. But the signs so far are encouraging. We’ve seen an 11% increase in the last three years in the percentage of staff who would be happy for a relative or friend to be treated by the Trust and who would be willing to recommend it as a place to work. We have increasing numbers of staff and services taking to social media to promote the organisation’s work, and the number of nominations for our annual Positive Practice Awards – created to share and celebrate the things we do well - has doubled to 320 in the space of a year.
So the time felt right to ask staff if they would front our campaign to recruit more nurses.
One of the results is our new nurse r
cruitment film which comes solely from the perspective of nursing staff. We wanted to produce something unscripted and authentic. You can be the judge of whether we’ve pulled that off when we release the film on 11 October via a social media ‘thunderclap’ campaign (and we’d love it if you signed up to support the campaign yourself).
What’s really important is the substance that sits beneath the campaign. Our chief nurse has led the charge on completely revamping our offer to newly qualified nurses to help them move from student to staff nurse as quickly as possible. We’re providing more personal coaching and mentoring, an apprentice scheme, fast track promotion and the opportunity for people to shape their own personal rotation scheme.
All of that said, what the film and campaign really boil down to are the powerful, moving, inspiring testimonies from nurses about why they love what they do. What’s really striking is how generous they have been in allowing us to photograph them, interview them, film them and splash their faces across press ads, social media and screen savers. They’ve even welcomed a production team coming in to make a documentary about mental health care for a national broadcast channel, filming for which starts in October.
Our nursing staff have proved as indispensable to our recruitment campaign as they are to NHS care. And, as they’ll tell you themselves, the area of Sussex and Hampshire where we provide services really is a beautiful, inspiring place to live and work –incorporating the rolling countryside of the Sussex downs, the sea and the vibrancy of Brighton. We’re on the lookout for new recruits if you’re tempted…