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| 3 minutes read

It Starts with the Dressing-up Box

"What do you want to be when you grow up?"

We've all been asked a version of this question at some point in our lives. For many of us, the question became urgent when we had to make choices about GCSEs (or O-Levels!) or A-Levels.

Yet there is growing evidence that children today make decisions about their future careers at a much earlier age. In a recent report, Drawing the Future, 13,000 UK Primary Schools pupils aged between 7 and 11 were asked to draw a picture of the job they wanted to do when they grew up. The report showed that 36 per cent of children from as young as seven years old, based their career aspirations on people they know. For those who didn't, 45 per cent stated that TV, film and radio were the biggest factors influencing their choice. The report also revealed that children's career aspirations have little in common with projected workforce.

There are some key lessons here for the NHS.

We know that if we are to build a NHS workforce fit for the future, with the skills and motivation required to deliver the Long Term Plan, reigniting a true sense of pride in nursing, midwifery and the care professions is both urgent and essential. This requires action in the here and now. It also requires a vision for the future of the professions. 

In February Ruth May, Chief Nursing Officer for England launched "mini uniforms" at Percy Shurmer Academy. This initiative, building on the launch in Scotland last year is focused on challenging the myths about who can be nurses and encouraging young people to consider nursing and midwifery as first choice, life long careers. It is an expansive campaign, which also aims to create new conversations with those who influence young people, such as parents, careers advisors and teachers.

Nursing and Midwifery Ambassadors are planning activities in Primary Schools as part of a series of 30 Day Challenges to transform perceptions of the professions. You can sign up as an ambassador and access the resource packs which are developed and will include the gender neutral mini uniforms.Ambassadors have been connecting with Primary Schools as volunteers through Inspiring the Future, a charity which matches volunteers with schools looking for people to talk about their careers. 

From her first day in post, Ruth May has invited us all to be part of #teamCNO and we can have great influence by sharing our pride in the profession publicly; "to speak with one voice, with one vision". Ambassadors know that future generations of nurses and midwives are forming their opinions of our profession by watching our behaviours and listening to our stories.

In NHS Horizons we are supporting the transforming perceptions of nursing and midwifery programmes by working with the Ambassadors to develop their "sense of agency" - that is, skills, confidence and ability to make a positive difference. As part of this work, NHS Horizons team members went home and spoke with their families about the role of nurses and midwives in public life. 

Through these conversations, several of our team members' children asked to wear the mini-uniforms and share a photo, to inspire other children in turn. We've created the photo below to showcase our future generation wearing the gender neutral mini uniforms.

* Drawing the Future represents the results of a collaboration between the charity Education and Employers, Tes, UCL Institute of Education (IOBy E), the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development Education and Skills (OECD).


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