Nursing: New Recruits with Years of Experience ; Special Initiatives in the Midlands Are Enticing Former Nurses to Return to the Profession. by JACQUELINE FREEMAN

Article excerpt

Asuccessful drive to woo nurses back to wards in the Midlands is leading the way for hospitals to overcome nursing shortages. The nurses - some in their mid-Fifties - who left the NHS to bring up families, are returning to work in an intensive drive by Birmingham and the Black Country Workforce Development Confederation (BBCWDC).

As is the case nationally, hospitals in the Midlands have severe staff shortages. But the success of BBCWDC was recently revealed when a group of 25 newly re-appointed nurses were honoured at the region's Celebration Day for Nurse Returners.

Flexible courses, strong support and greater freedom are key elements in encouraging former nurses to return to their health service careers, according to June Spencer, recruitment adviser at BBCWDC. "People are usually extremely nervous to take the initial step into returning to nursing," she says. "Some may have been out of practice for 20 years and confidence and self-esteem may be very low. We support and encourage them to embark on the programme, and financial and childcare support is available, which really helps. Returners can also choose to study at a university campus which is most convenient for them and flexibility is given in their choice of area for clinical placement."

BBCWDC is one of 27 Workforce Development Confederations (WDCs) around the country playing a key role in driving forward work to expand the nursing workforce and facilitate changes to training and education, meeting the needs of a modern NHS. An important part of their remit is to develop and spread improved ways of working that tackle recruitment and retention problems, and enhance the working lives of staff.

And with a government target of 324 nurse training places to fill by the end of the financial year, the BBWDC certainly has its work cut out. "We have developed a number of new initiatives in partnership with our local health community which are making a difference " says Spencer. "A key focus is collaborating with other WDCs in the Midlands to promote nursing as a career through recruitment fairs and shared publicity campaigns, which maximises opportunities to promote the diversity within the profession of nursing."

Significantly, the recruitment leads of the three Midlands WDCs meet regularly to share best practice and plan collaborative events. One initiative where collaboration has been particularly effective is the new "Made in the Midlands" interactive NHS careers CD-ROM. Launched last month, the CD-ROM is a group effort by NHS staff from three WDCs, covering Birmingham & The Black Country, Staffordshire & Shropshire, and Coventry, Warwickshire, Herefordshire & Worcestershire.

"The CD-ROM opens up the exciting world of the NHS using the latest technology to help gain an insight into many rewarding careers, including nursing," explains June Spencer. "It's taken a year to develop and gives all the information potential staff could ever want." Although predominantly aimed at the 12-18 age group, it should be of interest to anyone seeking advice. Video documentaries, local contact information, text diaries and a unique personal preference assessing personal suitable roles are just some of its facets. "It is quality information with a focus on the local area and so far we've had excellent feedback," says Spencer. Distribution is currently taking place to all Trusts in the locality, as well as to job centres, schools and colleges.

With more than 20 per cent of people living in the West Midlands coming from ethnic minority backgrounds, attention has also been paid to encouraging a more diverse workforce. This is certainly welcome news as the changing ethnic mix of Birmingham alone shows that by 2010 there will be an additional 72,000 people from ethnic minorities, altering the make-up of the region's workforce and labour market. …