Don't forget tomorrow's nurses


One of the common criticisms of nurses in the past few years is that they have become "too posh to wash".

The phrase has been coined in reaction to the growing number of nurses who enter the profession after completing a university degree rather than through the old apprenticeship system whereby hospitals took responsibility for training nurses on the job.

Like many issues it can be tempting to look back at the old way of doing things with rose-tinted glasses.

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The report should act as a timely reminder for the NHS as it looks to get more from staff in its productivity drive that the nurses of tomorrow cannot be marginalised”

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Those in charge of nursing are largely fully-behind the move to degree-level training - from next year all nurses in England will have to come through this route.

So it comes as no surprise that the Willis Commission, set up by the Royal College of Nursing to look at nurse education, has given its whole-hearted backing to university training for nurses.

Lord Willis, the Lib Dem peer who chaired the commission, suggested such accusations were unfair and "seldom made against other all-graduate professions such as medicine, midwifery and physiotherapy".

Timely reminder

But that does not mean he has given the new system a clean bill of health.

While his report is fully supportive of the move to degree-level training, it has acknowledged there is a "theory-practice gap".

This, it said, has not happened because nurses are going to university.

Instead, it is claiming it is linked to the quality of mentoring they get while doing their placements - they spend half of their degree on the job - and in the first months of their working lives.

This is important. About a third of the nursing workforce is over 50.

The report should act as a timely reminder for the NHS as it looks to get more from staff in its productivity drive that the nurses of tomorrow cannot be marginalised.

Nick Triggle Article written by Nick Triggle Nick Triggle Health correspondent

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  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    Let's not get too hooked into the graduate/non-graduate argument,. Graduates can, and do, receive good, and appropriate, skills training in other professions; being a graduate doesn't equate to having poor professional skills, or to regarding the "basics" as beneath you. Student nurses need good supervision and role models in the workplace - which hasn't been happening and is Willis's point

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    The RCN (a union) pushed for the degree as a means to get more pay out of the system and suddenly a load of nurses with GCSE's or O levels only got the chance to do a degree. They then started moaning it was too 'academic' (or hard) Who'd have thought that about a degree. Uni's didn't dare fail them because of the income and thus devalued everyone else's degree from those same Universities.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    "too posh to wash" --- their hands?

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Nursing cannot be taught in University, it is a practical profession. Sadly too many nurses today don't want to give the basic care to patients such as bedpans, feeding, bathing etc and we now train our HCA's to do the jobs that we as trained nurses did such as taking blood pressures, blood tests etc, meaning that we very often find that there is no one to do the basic nursing care.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    I trained in a school of nursing pre degree or even diploma days and whilst I have to say that there was inadequate academic learning provided by this system, My point is that nursing requires the right balance of academic and hands on training and I am not yet convinced that the current system provides this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    . I went into nursing as a vocation over 40 years ago. Times have changed and I value nursing as a profession today. The academic side of nursing is of great value in caring for todays patients. Lets stop being so critical and instead look at the positives and bring back the pride in nursing today.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    What matters is how well people are trained for the job they have to do- that is true in every walk of life. Call it an apprenticeship, call it a degree, that is just about labels. It is the quality of the training that matters. I don't need my rose-tinted glasses to see that the "old ways" produced better trained nurses. It is a simple, plain and obvious fact.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    I did a degree later in my career but I do not think this is a determinant of being a good nurse. I train already qualified nurses for a new role. I am staggered by the lack of clinical knowledge among today's nurses. Those who I have found to have good critical thinking skills;knowledge and empathy are in a minority. Recruitment; role status; working conditions; listening to staff are inadequate.



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