Respiratory disease is one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality among adults. For example, there were 3.23million deaths worldwide in 2019 from COPD alone. World Health Organisation; The top 10 causes of death .
Today is Florence Nightingales birthday and International Nurses’ Day. The Association of Respiratory Nurse Specialists (ARNS) would like to highlight on this day that we have a real and pressing crisis within our respiratory nursing workforce.
Respiratory nurses have shown tremendous professionalism and resilience during the global pandemic and have demonstrated the immense value of specialist respiratory nursing care for patients at arguably their most difficult time. Although the pandemic has highlighted how versatile we have been as a profession, more worryingly has negatively impacted on rising waiting lists, protracted early and accurate diagnosis for respiratory patients and the expansion of specialist services during a reset and recovery phase for the wider NHS.
Sadly, research has shown that we have been heading towards a respiratory workforce crisis for many years(Yorke et al 2017). “A respiratory workforce for the future”, paper was released by the British Thoracic Society (BTS) on 11th May which highlighted the challenges across all disciplines of respiratory care. ARNS noted more specifically that the nursing crisis we find ourselves in, was sadly not well reflected within this report as there is a lack of available and reliable data. We find ourselves in a position where 50% of the respiratory nursing workforce are predicted to retire this year, “Evaluation of the current landscape of respiratory nurse specialists in the UK: planning for the future needs of patients”, but unlike other professions, the report does not demonstrate how many respiratory nurses would be required to fill this gap.
We need more respiratory nurses to help deliver better care for patients with a burden of lung disease. Nurses are at the forefront of lung health and specialist care. They are involved with health promotion such as helping smokers to quit and giving flu vaccinations to providing complex respiratory treatments and supporting those at the end of their lives.
Respiratory nurses work across integrated care systems from community and primary care to specialist secondary care. Furthermore, we need to do more to recruit and retain our experienced nursing workforce at a time when many are leaving the profession due to the strain of the last two years.
ARNS pledge to make the respiratory nursing workforce crisis a priority by, supporting colleagues in applying for adequate commissioning of specialist services and a training needs analysis for a respiratory workforce fit for the 21st century.