Welsh nurses and midwives feel they have rewarding careers – but face financial and workplace pressures

Three quarters of Welsh nurses and midwives surveyed feel they have a rewarding career, and over two thirds were enthusiastic about their job – but many shared the workplace and financial pressures they face.

Public Health Wales published a new report today exploring the health and wellbeing of nurses and midwives across Wales before the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. 

The Research & Evaluation Division worked closely with the Royal College of Nursing and Royal College of Midwives to run an online survey. It captured the views of 1,642 nurses, midwives and healthcare support workers across Wales.

The Public Health Wales survey found that:

  • 75 per cent felt their occupation was rewarding and 69 per cent were enthusiastic about their job. 55 per cent would recommend a nursing, midwifery or health care support worker career to others.
  • 80 per cent felt valued by patients and 70 per cent felt valued by the families of patients – but only 42 per cent felt valued by senior staff.
  • 62 per cent reported suffering from work-related stress. Work-related stress was highest amongst female and younger staff members, and those in NHS Pay Bands 5 and 6.
  • 14 per cent reported low mental-wellbeing and 37 per cent indicated that they had trouble feeling relaxed. Mental wellbeing was poorer in younger members of the nursing and midwifery workforce.
  • 61 per cent had attended work when feeling unwell twice or more in the last 12 months. 

Benjamin Gray, Senior Researcher at Public Health Wales, who led the study, said:

“Our new report sheds light on the wider issues that impact on the health and wellbeing of nurses, midwives and healthcare support workers.

“We know that the workplace plays a pivotal role in our health and wellbeing. If efforts are made to meet some of the challenges highlighted in our report, there is an opportunity to create a working environment that is more conducive to health and happiness.”

Commenting on the report’s release, Rhiannon Beaumont-Wood, Executive Director of, Quality, Nursing and Allied Health Professionals at Public Health Wales, said:

“The wellbeing of health and social care staff is at the heart of Welsh Government’s flagship ‘A Healthier Wales’ strategy and with 2020 being the Year of the Nurse and Midwife now is an opportune time to help improve the health and wellbeing of the nursing and midwifery workforce in Wales.”

 “There are some challenges identified which may require system investment, but there are also steps which nursing and midwifery leaders at all levels can promote”

The report recommended 4 key areas for future action:

  1. Developing and maintaining supportive work environments to improve staff and patient outcomes, with a focus on supporting the mental wellbeing of the workforce and strengthening the prevention of ill health.
  2. Recognising and valuing the nursing and midwifery workforce.
  3. Understanding the root cause of financial pressures.
  4. Focusing support on the younger members of the nursing and midwifery workforce, and those employed on NHS Pay Bands 5 and 6.

Men, younger nurses and midwives (18-39 years old), and those in poorer health were found to be particularly impacted by financial pressures. Ensuring early access to financial advice and support for those currently struggling may alleviate some pressure in the short-term.  

Longer-term there is a need to understand the root causes and co-produce supportive solutions with nurses and midwives and their professional bodies – the Royal College of Nursing and the Royal College of Midwives.

Nicky Hughes, Associate Director of Nursing (Employment Relations) at the Royal College of Nursing said:

“It is heartening to see nurses reporting high levels of job satisfaction, however, work related stress is having a significant impact on nurses and midwives. 

It is essential that employers prioritise the health and wellbeing of their staff and have services to support them in many different multifaceted ways”.

Welcoming the publication of the report by Public Health Wales Helen Rogers Director for Wales at the Royal College of Midwives said:

“It’s vital that NHS Wales ensures that staff health and wellbeing is a priority. Supportive and open workplaces enable midwives to deliver safe high-quality care to women and their babies. 

When staff are overworked and under intense pressure their physical and mental health suffers and this undoubtedly impacts on their ability to work to their highest level. 

We also know that when staff wellbeing is supported, employee involvement increases, motivation and performance levels also increase. 

The RCM welcomes this report and hope it becomes the catalyst for change.”

With health and wellbeing of our health and care staff a core element of ‘A Healthier Wales’, 2020 being the year of the Nurse and Midwife, and the challenge from COVID-19 our NHS workforce have bravely faced, now is an opportune time to invest in the health of the nursing and midwifery workforce in Wales. A follow-up health and wellbeing study is planned in the next year to examine the impact of COVID-19 on the nursing and midwifery workforce in Wales.