Conference UCC supports School of Nursing and Midwifery with Magnet4Europe Learning Collaborative in-person event

19 May 2022

International Nurses Day took place last week and we spoke with Dr Noeleen Brady from the School of Nursing and Midwifery at UCC about an ambitious project which aims to improve the mental health and wellbeing of staff in Irish hospitals. 

The Covid crisis and the toll it took on healthcare workers brought the importance of their wellbeing into sharp relief. The School of Nursing and Midwifery in UCC is playing its part in addressing this issue, leading the Irish arm of a European research project that aims to redesign working environments in healthcare, boosting the mental health and wellbeing of hospital staff, and improving the outcomes of patients. Dr Noeleen Brady is a postdoctoral researcher in the School of Nursing and Midwifery at UCC and she is working on the Irish branch of Magnet4Europe, which is led by Professor Jonathan Drennan. The project, funded under Horizon 2020, was in gestation before Covid hit but according to Noeleen, the crisis has served to underline its importance even further.

“It is an extremely timely project. Staff retention has been a longstanding issue, exacerbated by Covid,” she says.

The four-year project, which began in 2020, was inspired by US hospitals which became recognised as ‘Magnet’ hospitals because of their ability to attract and retain staff. There are six European countries involved in Magnet4Europe — Belgium, Germany, Norway, Sweden, the UK and Ireland — and the hospitals taking part are each twinned with a US counterpart.

There are 15 hospitals in Ireland involved in the project, including Cork University Hospital, South Infirmary-Victoria University Hospital and the Bon Secours Hospital, Cork.

“There are only two hospitals in all of Europe that have Magnet status so hopefully by the end of this project, it will be a lot more than that,” says Noeleen. “Ireland is one of the largest groups, we have got a lot of our hospitals on board, which is fantastic and hopefully will be really good for their staff.”

The research study targets the five overarching principles of the Magnet concept: structural empowerment of clinical staff; transformational leadership; exemplary and evidence-based professional practice; new knowledge, innovations and improvements; and empirical outcomes.

With one large-scale European study of hospital work conditions and associated nurse and patient outcomes revealing burnout rates ranging between 10% and 78%, Noeleen is hopeful that Magnet4Europe will have a real impact on the hospitals taking part.

“We are measuring mental health and wellbeing through surveys and seeing how bringing the principles of Magnet across will impact on staff. We would be hoping that we will see much better conditions for nurses and doctors in hospitals following the implementation of these principles, that we would see better retention rates, lower rates of burnout in our healthcare staff, and improved patient outcomes. To get Magnet accreditation would be fantastic for many of our hospitals, it would really improve things nationally and across Europe.”

According to Noeleen, feedback on the project so far has been very encouraging.

“We are seeing some impact already. We are about to launch our second survey to see how things have changed over the last year. Hopefully we will get some nice results from that. Feedback has already been quite positive from our hospitals and it is going well. Hospitals, for example in Dublin and Cork, are now working together whereas before they would have been quite isolated from each other, even that element, that they are coming together nationally is nice.”

Given that the partners in the project have been collaborating online for the past two years due to Covid restrictions, there is much excitement at the opportunity to meet up in person at the Magnet4Europe Learning Collaborative in-person event, which takes place in UCC on May 19 and 20.

“We are really excited that we will all get to meet each other. I have only met with a handful of the hospitals who are in the project because of Covid so we will get to meet our Irish colleagues as well as all our partners we have got to know via email. While we have been doing meetings online, there is something very different about doing them in person. We are really looking forward to it and having all these people coming to Cork,” says Noeleen.

She praises the support the School of Nursing and Midwifery has received in organising the event from Conference UCC, which is part of UCC Academy, the university’s in-house consultancy. 

“I would not have thought organising the event would take as much work as it does. I couldn’t sing the praises of Conference UCC enough. Sian James [event project coordinator] is our main contact and she has been phenomenal. We make decisions and she puts them into action. From the registration page to name badges, it leaves us the space to deal with the other aspects of the event. If we didn’t have that support, I wouldn’t be able to focus on the rest of it and this is a busy project,” says Noeleen.

 Having supported the School of Nursing and Midwifery in running online events such as webinars over the past two years, Marie Louise Keane, creative services delivery manager at UCC Academy, emphasises the importance of events such as the Magnet4Europe Learning Collaborative in terms of networking and sharing knowledge.

“We are in tune with what Magnet4Europe are trying to do in their learning collaboration and we know how important it is that there is space and opportunity for people to be able to network, talk and be together. We are delighted to be able to do what we can to support that,” says Marie Louise.

For Noeleen, the core aim of the Magnet4Europe project is to ultimately have a positive impact on the health service and the people who keep it going, including nursing staff.

“They are the backbone of the health service, without them, it would fall apart.”

UCC Academy

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