New research “will shape the future of nursing workforce” in acute medicine


Results of a new study into the profile of registered nurses working in acute medical units (AMU) will be presented at the Society for Acute Medicine’s (SAM) spring conference in Coventry today.

The research identifies some of the factors which affect recruitment and retention of nursing staff on acute medical units in the UK.

Liz Lees, the main author and consultant nurse in acute medicine at Heartlands Hospital in Birmingham said: “This is the first research of its kind which specifically focuses upon nurses who work in acute medicine. It provides an insight into the current issues but crucially it also provides ‘advance notice’ and with this an opportunity to shape the future nursing workforce”.

The primary research was undertaken over a period of a year (2010/11) and is aimed at shaping the future nursing workforce by informing of the future of recruitment and retention of AMU nurses.

Key findings:

  • Diversity of patients, challenges and teamwork were cited as morale enhancing and motivating factors.
  • 85% of acute medicine nurses said they would choose to work in acute medicine again if they had the opportunity to restart their career.
  • Registered nurses felt that career progression and staff recruitment may be affected by lack of wider recognition of acute medicine nursing outside the AMU environment.
  • The variety of work and experience gained on the AMU were cited as key factors in encouraging recruitment and retention of nursing staff to acute medicine

Main recommendations:

  • Lead nurses from AMUs should undertake a skills analysis across all nurse bandings to identify the gaps and current training needs of their staff.
  • A thorough understanding of the nurses’ workload and dependency within AMU is urgently required to keep pace with the acuity and volume of patients assessed and admitted.
  • Staffing duty rotas need to be developed to take into account the potential for burn out and high stress levels through adequate time for staff development and consideration of CPD with each new rota.
  • All AMUs should consider the development of advanced nursing roles .

Dr Chris Roseveare, SAM President said: “Nurses are the linchpin of every acute medical unit; it is essential that we develop and sustain a high quality nursing workforce in acute medicine. This research has identified some vital factors which are needed to ensure the recruitment and retention of this key group of hospital staff. I am delighted that we are able to launch this document at our spring meeting and will be encouraging all members of the AMU team to share these findings as widely as possible”

A participant in the survey with 21 years of experience in acute medicine said: “I feel that ALL student nurses should be given the opportunity to work within acute medicine to gain an insight into the ethos of the clinical area.”


Note to editors:

  • Acute medicine (also known as acute internal medicine) is the specialty which deals with the immediate and early treatment of adult patients with a variety of medical conditions who present in hospital as emergencies.
  • The Society for Acute Medicine is the national representative body for the specialty of acute medicine and represents around a thousand members.
  • Liz Lees is a consultant nurse in acute medicine and has 21 years registered nursing experience, with 14 years spent in acute medicine.  Liz is a nurse representative on the Society for Acute Medicine council and the sole editor of two multi-professional books and author of a toolkit in collaboration with the Department of Health.
  • Dr Myers, co-author of the study trained as a general nurse at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh and undertook specialist training in general intensive care at Guy’s Hospital in London. She has two research degrees and a PhD from Glasgow Caledonian University.
  • The research was done in collaboration with pH Associates with funding from Imperial College London, via Professor Derek Bell.
  • Liz Lees is available for interview.
  • The research can be accessed here


Claire Charras
Communications and Marketing Executive
Society for Acute Medicine
07 985 49 49 65
0117 983 0542