Chief Nurse At London Trust Aims For Zero Vacancies In 2020

The chief nurse of a trust where Florence Nightingale set up her first nursing school has said she wants to use this “important” year to achieve zero nursing vacancies and raise the status of the profession worldwide.

Dame Eileen Sills from Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust has told how she would like to build on the reputation of the trust “as the place to go to be a nurse” during the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife.

This week the trust held a launch event at St Thomas’ Hospital to kick-start celebrations for 2020, which coincides with the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth.

Speaking at the event, Dame Eileen told her nursing colleagues that this year was about “remembering the legacy” that Florence gave the profession.

She said that the hospital had a “special place within nursing” because Florence’s first school started up there in 1860.

“I think what 2020 is about, is us remembering the legacy that Florence Nightingale gave us, where we have come from and celebrating our future,” said Dame Eileen.

She added: “I think if we lose the importance of our past then we will be poorer in the future.

“So, this year is about having a bit of fun, appreciating our legacy [and] participating in a whole raft of initiatives.”

Dame Eileen, who has been nursing for 40 years this year, encouraged her colleagues to use the time over the next year to “understand the value we make, not just to Guy’s and St Thomas’, but the value to the NHS as a whole”.

“We’re a force to be reckoned with,” she added.

“The World Health Organisation has made this the International Year of the Nurse and all of a sudden I think most importantly the world has woken up that you can’t do without us.”

In an interview with Nursing Times after her speech, Dame Eileen was asked what she would like to achieve for the trust during this significant year.

She said: “We would like to build our reputation further as the place to go to be a nurse.

“I’d like to have no vacancies by the end of the year.”

Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust currently has 679 whole time equivalent registered nurse vacancies, which is 12% of its total nursing workforce.

“I want nurses to basically say…that it’s the best place to work. Our profile in the organisation is very high anyway and I think this will just sort of cement it,” she added.

Dame Eileen highlighted that the year of 2020 should be used to “raise the status of nursing worldwide”.

“I think we have good status in this country, but worldwide that’s not always the case,” she said.

“Across the world we want everybody to understand and realise the contribution that nursing can make, which is pretty considerable, and it not be defined by the country that you are in.”

To celebrate year of the nurse, the trust has implemented a theme for each month during 2020 which includes a focus on leadership, education, community services and infection control (see full list below).

The trust will also be holding its annual nursing and midwifery awards in May and has plans for two new installations at the hospital, though Dame Eileen could not reveal what they would be.

In addition, the trust has a competition planned with a primary school to “design the future nursing uniform”. Dame Eileen said the winner would then be given the chance to create the uniform.

Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust’s themes for the year:

January: Celebrations begin

February: Past, present and future

March: Education and training

April: Reaching your potential

May: Celebrating our professions

June: Advanced practice and research

July: Infection control

August: Leadership development

September: Community services

October: International heritage

November: Strategy and smiles

December: Florence Nightingale’s legacy


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