Perceptions of nursing in the NHS

AIM: To investigate the attractiveness of the NHS as an employer to potential nursing staff. METHOD: Individual and group interviews were conducted with school pupils, mature students on Access courses, nursing students, healthcare assistants, agency nurses and independent sector nurses. RESULTS: Eighty-one individuals participated in the qualitative stage of the study. Analysis of the interview transcripts indicated that nursing as a career choice is perceived as hard work, involving high pressure and stress. Working with patients is the source of considerable job satisfaction but is offset by staff shortages and lack of flexibility over working hours. Increases in pay and staffing levels, coupled with improved retention strategies are suggested as tactics to improve recruitment. CONCLUSIONS: Nursing in the NHS is moderately attractive to potential recruits and this attraction is predominately based on the interaction with patients. Improved satisfaction of current NHS staff would help to positively advertise the NHS as an employer. Improvements in pay, recognition and more flexible working hours would help encourage staff working outside the NHS to return.