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New standards to boost wellbeing of nurses

06 April 2023

RCN LAUNCHES new standards to boost the mental health and wellbeing of the nursing workforce.

The RCN was commissioned to produce education standards to provide those delivering the Professional Nurse Advocate (PNA) programme with a universal framework to align training and establish higher quality assurance levels.

The programme, launched by NHS England in March 2021, is part of the response to the ongoing work-based stress, burnout and mental wellbeing challenges faced by the nursing workforce. It’s been designed to promote reflection on personal experience and have a positive impact on personal wellbeing as well as developing strategies to deal with stress in the workplace. 

Evidence from the programme so far shows the approach has had a significant impact on improving the mental health and wellbeing of staff as well as reducing burnout.
The new standards are set out in two parts:

  • standards framework for PNA education. PNA training is nurse-specific, continuing professional development. Building on established standards for nurse education, these standards have been mapped to the NMC’s Standards framework for nursing and midwifery education.
  • standards for PNA training programmes and modules. These standards set out the minimum programme criteria to be expected through PNA training by approved education institutions and, where relevant, employer organisations.

RCN deputy director of nursing: education, research and ethics, Dr Nicola Ashby said, “Protecting the mental health and wellbeing of the nursing workforce has never been so critical, and these new standards are a vital part of this process.

“The Professional Nurse Advocate Programme has already had incredible uptake across England, and these standards will give assurance that quality is maintained wherever this training is delivered.

“They will also help to inspire continuous improvement and enable nursing staff in all positions to innovate and improve practice.”

Emma Wadey, head of mental health nursing at NHS England, said, “The PNA programme is the first of its kind for nursing, not just in England but across the world, and since launching in 2021, we have seen a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of staff. 

“I am delighted to see the RCN publishing its PNA education standards today – co-produced with nursing and maternity staff, higher education institutions, and key stakeholders, the standards will ensure consistent delivery and quality of the programme going forward.”

The PNA is a clinical and professional leadership programme that aims to give nursing staff the skills and knowledge to deliver restorative clinical supervision, lead quality improvement initiatives to improve patient care, and contribute to positive learning cultures. Find out more.