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A recent survey of community nurses highlights growing abuse and assaults from patients. But can making them aware of the overwhelming amount of support from the wider general public, be just the boost they need keep them in the job?

In June the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) published a survey of community nurses that showed that almost 50% had been subjected to abuse during the previous two years. In more than 11% of cases, that abuse was physical as well as verbal.

The nationwide shortage of nurses has been widely reported in recent years. And despite budget restraints proving a challenge, it’s tempting to make a link between such negative views of the profession and the difficulties NHS trusts are facing in recruiting qualified nursing staff, particularly for frontline services such as community mental health teams. 

So how are organisations attracting nurses?

Earlier this year we blogged about the recruitment drive by the Royal Derby Hospital, riding on the back of their media stardom in ITV's Superhospital fly-on-the-wall documentary. The trust used social media and blogging to help reinforce the positive perceptions of the healthcare profession, which came across strongly in the TV series. Creating a buzz on Twitter, viewers described the programme as “a real eye-opener” and “very inspirational.” Locals proudly tweeted about their local hospital and the “amazing NHS staff”, while another viewer acknowledged the financial challenges, stating: “I wonder how many wonderful future doctors, nurses etc. we are going to lose because they can’t afford to go to university.” But for some of those in training, a documentary such as this proved an encouraging reminder of why they are joining the job.  A nurse in training in Lancashire tweeted “#superhospital makes me more determined to be a children’s nurse.”

Several other NHS trusts have also launched major nursing recruitment initiatives. For example, in May Wirral University Teaching Hospital announced it was investing £1 million in recruiting registered nurses. And Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust has been holding open days as part of its nursing recruitment drive. 

Health Education England (HEE) has been increasing the number of available nursing training places. However, this will not have an effect on the workforce until at least 2017. Until then the focus will mainly be on attracting qualified nurses who have left the profession to update their skills and return to nursing. In September 2014 HEE announced a £4.7 million investment into training resources over the next three years as part of a major national Come Back campaign.

Public support for nurses remains strong. A pre-election Ipsos Mori poll commissioned by the RCN showed that 88% of British adults surveyed agreed that we need many more nurses in hospitals to deliver safe care. As part of the move towards seven-day working, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has announced plans to recruit 5,000 additional primary care staff for GP practices, including district nurses. Hopefully, one of the next key areas of focus for the government will be hospital nursing, ensuring that this vital section of the healthcare workforce gets the right levels of support and training opportunities.

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