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Follow your (Com)Passion

New and creative project understanding experiences of early career midwives

At the start of the pandemic in 2020, the RCN Foundation commissioned the King’s Fund to explore the causes and consequences of poor mental health and well-being amongst nurses and midwives, including healthcare support workers and students, from across the United Kingdom. The Courage of Compassion was published in September 2020, and sought to identify solutions to the issues which contributed to poor mental health and well-being across the professions.

The report recommended the use of a framework called the ‘ABC of nurses and midwives core work needs.’ This aims to facilitate well-being and motivation at work and to reduce workplace stress. The ABC of core work needs involves:

  • Autonomy – the need to have control over our work lives, and to be able to act consistently with our work and life values

  • Belonging – the need to be connected to, cared for, and caring of others around us in the workplace, and to feel valued, respected and supported

  • Contribution – the need to experience effectiveness in what we do and deliver valued outcomes, such as high-quality care (Stone et al 2009). 

To complement this framework, the report also recommend changes to culture and leadership across nursing and midwifery through Compassionate Leadership (West et al, 2017). The report recommended that nursing and midwifery need to:

“Ensure health and care environments have compassionate leadership and nurturing cultures that enable both care and staff support to be high quality, continually improving and compassionate.”

Compassionate leadership involves four principles:

  • Attending

  • Understanding

  • Empathising

  • Helping

It has been 2 ½ years since the publication of The Courage of Compassion. Retention rates for newly qualified midwives remain a challenge.

To try to address this, the NHS People Promise (2022) which is linked to the NHS Peoples Plan, includes seven elements to make a difference in improving the experience of working in the NHS. One of these elements is:

“We are compassionate and inclusive.”

It was always the ambition of the RCN Foundation and the King’s Fund, that The Courage of Compassion and its recommendations became part of the culture of nursing and midwifery.

We now want to find out of this ambition has come true. The RCN Foundation have once again linked up with the King’s Fund to launch an exciting new project Follow you ComPassion.

We want to understand how the ABC Framework and Compassionate Leadership is working for early career midwives across health and social care within the UK. We will also be exploring the experience of  senior midwifery leaders of Compassionate Leadership and their understanding of the early career midwives experiences of this.

If you would like to be involved in this new and creative project, please download the expressions of interest form and email this to and we will be in touch with you very soon.