Navigating the Critical Care Nurse Career Pathway; From New Graduate to Advanced Practice

Minister Donnelly & ICU Announcement (February 11th 2022) Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly TD visited Tallaght University Hospital this afternoon to learn first-hand about the innovative recruitment strategy being embraced by the Nursing staff in the Critical Care Unit in Tallaght University Hospital to enable them to safely open a new 12 bedded Critical Care Unit.

Minister Donnelly welcomes this innovative approach clearly demonstrating how creativity and a shared vision can provide solutions to the challenges our health service is facing in ensuring there is adequate expertise developed for the increasing demands in our health service, in this case for critical care nursing.

The Recruitment strategy is a simple one, provide New Graduate Nurses with the professional supports and access to the right clinical and academic education, to allow them to professionally and personally develop and to be able to care for the patients requiring critical care in the Hospital. Tallaght University Hospital have done that by putting in place the required number of Clinical Nurse Educators. They in turn have developed a new 12 week 'Graduate Nurse in Critical Care Education Programme'. This enables the nurses to develop to the point that they can access a National Foundation education Module in Critical Care Nursing before moving onto Post Graduate Specialist education. 

Commenting on the programme rolled out at TUH Áine Lynch, Director of Nursing & Integrated Care said “We have received great support from Dublin Midlands Hospital Group and the National Clinical Programme for Critical Care in the development of this nurse career pathway. The education and training opportunity we can now offer our graduate nurses is seamless ensuring they can quickly move into their chosen specialty in nursing and is fortuitous as we are nearing completion of our new ICU build as we increase our Critical Care capacity.

Derek Cribbin, the National Nurse Lead for Critical Care with the Critical Care Programme added that 'The Critical Care Nurse Career Pathway describes the Professional development potential from Undergraduate nursing to advanced practice in Critical Care. To enable access to the pathway, it is crucial that the required professional supports are in place, aligned with clinical and academic learning opportunities.  Tallaght University Hospital now has all aspects of these in place, by securing funding to put into post additional Clinical Nurse Educators in Critical Care, and through the development of a new graduate nurse in critical care education programme. Both of these provide the building blocks to ensure a smooth transition for the New Grad Nurse onto the National Foundation Education Module in Critical Care and further progression onto Post Graduate education and ultimately Advanced Practice if so desired. These are the essential components of the recruitment strategy developed by TUH to increase their Critical Care capacity, currently under construction.'

Eileen Whelan, Chief Director of Nursing & Midwifery, Dublin Midlands Hospital Group acknowledged the outstanding vision and leadership at all levels in Tallaght University Hospital, facilitating both national and international recruitment and supporting nursing education for both new and experienced nurses in Critical Care. Eileen thanked the Minister, Chief Nursing Officer, Ms. Rachel Kenna and Dr. Geraldine Shaw, Director of the Office of the Nursing and Midwifery Services Director (ONMSD) for their support to enable the development of this important Recruitment Strategy.

With the continued fostering and nurturing of critical care nurses through each stage of their professional development, TUH are future proofing their workforce, thus protecting their patients' needs by delivering high-quality, evidence-based patient centred care. And providing a working environment which is supportive and dynamic in nature.

Niamh Skehan a new graduate nurse started work in the Critical Care Unit in TUH in October 2021 “Starting in ICU as a new graduate nurse was challenging and I had a lot to learn but the practice and experience I have gained over the last few months has really given me a vision of what an exciting career I have ahead of me. Starting on the new graduate course, I’ve immense support in all aspects to develop my skills and learn the ropes of the critical care setting.”

In response to the national shortage of critical care nurses, the Critical Care Clinical Facilitators in TUH ICU developed a novel 12-week supernumerary New Graduate Nurse in Critical Care Education Programme. This innovation in clinical practice involves a blended approach to student learning including theoretical lecture content from clinical experts, clinical skills workshops and high-fidelity simulation for consolidation of student learning. Following completion of the New-Graduate Programme, new-graduate nurses will be encouraged to progress along the National Critical Care Nurse Career Pathway including the completion of the National Foundation Module in Critical Care and Post Graduate Specialist Education Programme.