Senior nurses should ‘upgrade’ for scheme

Oxford's John Radcliffe Hospital NNL-150710-123011001
Oxford's John Radcliffe Hospital NNL-150710-123011001

Senior nurses in Oxfordshire hospitals are being asked to ‘top up’ their qualifications to degree level as part of an international accreditation programme.

Oxfordshire University Hospitals NHS Trust is pursuing accreditation through the Magnet Recognition Programme, which was developed in the United States in the 1980s in a bid to improve hospitals’ ability to recruit and retain nurses.

Among the criteria for receiving accreditation, senior nurses at band seven and above in the trust’s hospitals, including the Horton and the JR, must be graduates, as opposed to the diploma level qualification.

Since 2013, all nurse training programmes have had to be at degree level.

Speaking to the Banbury Guardian, OUHT chief nurse Andrew MacCallum said a study by the University of Pennsylvania showed higher educational attainment of nurses had an impact on the quality of care.

He said the trust had developed a training programme, a one-year post graduate certificate Leading Compassionate Excellence in Nursing and Midwifery, so senior nurses could ‘top up’ their qualifications. The programme is funded by the trust from its learning and development budget, and has been validated by the University of Northampton.

The trust has received £160,000 over two years from Health Education England to support the Magnet programme.

Mr MacCallum said those who had been through the programme were positive about it, but there were a number of nurses still to take an interest.

He said: “We are planning to meet with people who don’t have the qualification as it were and talk to them about what is the best way forward. We work with mature, experienced and valued members of staff so we don’t want people to feel concerned about this process,” he said.

“It is a very highly regarded programme in the US. In the UK, we are working with a sister organisation in Nottingham about how we obtain Magnet status.”

So far, 50 students are going through the programme with another 25 to start in September. Two groups will run per year.

He added achieving Magnet status was largely about attracting and retaining quality nursing staff.

But some nurses have said they are already providing an excellent service and would not gain financially by ‘upgrading’ their qualifications. They have described having to do the course as ‘unnecessary and demoralising’ and have expressed concern they will lose their banding if they don’t upgrade their qualifications.

According to a discussion paper from July 2015 by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), hospitals have to pay to attain Magnet recognition and in the US fees can include up to US$65,000 in appraisal fees, depending on the number of beds. The paper said some nursing unions in the US had criticised Magnet and the way it had been implemented. It added Magnet needed greater flexibility in the UK if the benefits of the programme were to be replicated more widely in a non-US care setting.

OUHT has paid Magnet’s accreditation body, the American Nurses Credentialing Centre (ANCC) US$10,000 this year to join the Magnet learning community but any assessment fees won’t be due until the trust submits its final application, most likely in 2020.

The trust said any costs incurred would be offset by savings made through reduced recruitment costs and improved staff retention.