Supporting nurses on the Covid frontline

Date 17.06.2021

Nurses who’ve worked on the Covid frontline will be better supported thanks to new, specialist training available at the University of Northampton (UON).

The Professional Nurse Advocates (PNA) programme* started at several sites across England in March during the ‘third wave’ of the coronavirus pandemic.

PNA training follows a similar programme of restorative clinical supervision and support – or A-EQUIP – as implemented in midwifery, where it has been shown to help improve staff retention, wellbeing and patient outcomes.

It was developed by NHS England and NHS Improvement to give nurses the knowledge and skills to better listen to their peers and support their recovery – as well as their own – following the most challenging days of coronavirus.

The 10-week long course covers workshops and teaching sessions such as leadership, quality improvement, personal and professional resilience, self-care, mindfulness and supporting staff recovery following traumatic events.

Nurses also receive ‘Psychological PPE’ training. Just as they use aprons and gloves to protect themselves physically, they also need psychological protection. This aspect of the training – which also includes Mental Health First Aid – helps them develop skills and strategies to also take back to their work environments.

Sian Durkin, Senior Sister at Leicester General Hospital, is one of the first cohort of UON-trained PNA’s. She said: “I thought the PNA role sounded like a fantastic initiative. I felt this was an excellent opportunity to be part of a national drive to facilitate the restoration and recovery, not only of the service, but of staff too, who have all worked so hard in unprecedented circumstances.

“Completing the module at the University of Northampton has been brilliant. Each session was engaging and the tutors were really helpful and supportive from day one. I thoroughly enjoyed the programme and am excited to be one of the first PNAs at my trust.”

UON’s first cohort of 28 trainees – who finished their training last week – all work in critical care. Students in that group and those registered for other cohorts come from Northamptonshire, Leicestershire and as far afield as Devon and Newcastle.

There will be seven further cohorts up until March 2022 covering all of the main, four fields of the profession (Adult, Children and Young Peoples, Learning Disability and Mental Health) when the University expect to have trained around 380 PNAs.

Donna Bray, Subject Lead for Nursing at UON, said: “We have all been impacted by the pandemic, but imagine coping with the restrictions necessary to continue our everyday lives while at the same time caring for very ill people in a busier than ever health service.

“Nurses continue to be essential to the recovery of the NHS as we move ever forwards with supporting the health and wellbeing of the communities we serve. Our Nursing Teaching team at UON were motivated to step up to support our colleagues in practice, to give them recovery and educational support; we wanted them to know they matter. We’re proud to see our first ‘graduates’, like Sian, now going back to their working cultures to deliver this.”

For more about this national programme, contact the central Professional Nurse Advocates Team:

For more information about PNA’s, see the official NHS England website.