Posted on: 31 Oct 2019

Bon Secours Health System Nursing Strategy Conference
From Left to right: Siobhan Dowling (Director of Nursing Bon Secours Hospital Tralee), Nollaig Broe (Director of Nursing, Mount Desert Care Village), Andrea Mazzoccoli PHD (Chief Nursing and Quality Officer Bon Secours Mercy Health), Ber Mulcahy (Director of Nursing Bon Secours Hospital Cork), Mairead Carr (Group Director of Nursing Bon Secours Hospital Galway), Fiona Murphy (Director of Nursing Bon Secours Hospital Dublin).


Ireland’s largest private hospital group has unveiled a unique Nursing Care Strategic Framework to enable its 1,410 strong nursing care team cope with the rising demands of the pressurized nursing environment in Ireland. 

The Bon Secours ‘Unity in Diversity – Nursing Care Strategic Framework 2019 - 2024’ - unveiled at a nursing care conference in front of over 220 attendees at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Little Island, Cork – is the very first nursing strategy for Irish hospitals to include healthcare assistants and operating department practitioners as well as nurses. 

It will be a roadmap for nursing care across Ireland’s largest private hospital group, which employs 3,000 people, 47% of whom are nurses, healthcare assistants and operating department practitioners. The strategy is framed for a nursing environment that has seen the job of the nursing care team become increasingly challenging due to a range of factors, the conference heard. 

OECD statistics show, the conference heard, that Ireland has the highest rate of hospital bed occupancy at approximately 94% and one of the lowest numbers of beds per head of population, with just three beds for every 1,000 people compared to 13 in Japan. 

Bon Secours Health System Group Director of Nursing Mairead Carr said that the need for a strategic approach to nursing care was never greater. From the outset the intention was that ‘the  strategy must reflect the kind of organization that we are, the kind of values that we practice and the ambition that we share for the people that use our services and the way we organize ourselves to work together as part of a team culture. “Today, nurses work in very pressurized work environments. Patients can be sicker, often with more that one chronic disease and a higher dependency; hospitals have higher occupancy rates with a shorter length of stay. Nurses are under pressure to provide better care than they have provided before’. 

Outlining the reason for widening the scope of the strategy beyond nurses themselves, Bon Secours Dublin Director of Nursing Fiona Murphy said: “When we started out on this journey, we knew health care assistants and operating department practitioners had to be included and this is the first time this has been done.  They are fundamental to the practice of nursing care as we move forward.” Fiona Murphy said that education, for all, is a key pillar of the strategy. “We want positive outcomes for patients and also for our workforce. Education and training will be paramount for this to happen, and under this strategy, we will promote development career progression options for healthcare assistance for operating department practitioners to further consolidate their role in the nursing care team. 

She said that under the strategy, practical systems will also be put in place that will help measure how much work is being done by nurses every day.  “This will help ensure best outcomes for our patients and to ensure staff are working in an environment that is conducive with their well-being. Without patients, we wouldn't have hospitals, but the people who are there 24/7 are the nursing care team. They must be looked after and that will lead to better patient outcomes.”

Meanwhile, also addressing the conference, UCC Professor Jonathan Drennan said that a ‘safe staffing’ pilot research programme is already showing that using a systematic approach rather than ‘guesswork’ to determine staffing levels will have a range of positive outcomes, including avoiding adverse patient events.  Professor Drennan’s research programme into Safe Staffing of Adult Wards in Acute Hospitals is backed by the HSE and Department of Health. This pilot saw an introduction of a systematic approach, he said, for staffing instead of the legacy ‘guess-work’ approach, among other outputs from the pilot programme, it is already seeing a reduction in adverse events, increasing job satisfaction and delivering economic benefits.

“We're seeing things like a reduction in agency use, a reduction in turnover of nursing staff, and a decrease in those adverse events, which we know can lead to costs within the health service, as well as reduction in length of stay of patients as well. Patients are being discharged quicker as well. Our focus now is on working with the Department of Health to stabilize the nursing workforce and determine numbers based on patient need,” he said. 

Prof Drennan said that it is essential that hospitals have all-encompassing strategies, such as the framework launched by the Bon Secours Health System, in place to enable them to deal with the significant challenges facing Irish nursing which include  nursing recruitment and staff retention, coupled with the increased patient need and patient complexities of the last decade.

The Group DON Mairead Carr says   ‘Our strategic framework will enable us to provide the best nursing care that we can to patients, but will also help us to ensure that we look after our nursing care team through creating conditions for professional development, staff empowerment and autonomy.” 

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