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New course set up to create 'elite' nurses who start out as sisters

A post-graduate course to fast-track “elite” nurses into ward management roles has been created by a partnership of trusts and universities in London.

A group of 15 candidates will be selected for the four-year course, which is due to begin in September.

The scheme, believed to be the first of its kind in the NHS in England, aims to have graduates ready to go straight to a ward sister post. Only nurses with a first-class degree who graduate during the current academic year will be considered as candidates.

It is being set up by the academic health science centre UCL Partners, which comprises more than 30 NHS organisations and education bodies.

Claire Johnston, director of nursing and performance at Camden and Islington Mental Health Foundation Trust, which is one of the participating trusts, told Nursing Times the 15 nurses selected for the first year of the course would be an “elite”.

“We are going for the best and are unashamed about that,” she said. “The programme is about setting the bar uncompromisingly high.”

Students will cover 150 competencies over the four years, more than three a month.

The course also involves six-month rotations through primary care, mental health, general and specialist hospital settings. Each student will be individually mentored by a director of nursing.

Robyn Hudson, director of strategic development at UCLP, said: “Candidates will need to be very ambitious, bright and have high emotional intelligence. They will be passionate and reflect the kind and caring nursing profession that patients and the public need.”

She added that a “driver” for setting up the course was the high vacancy rate for ward sister and charge nurse roles among the partnership’s trusts.

“This is not unique to us but there is a significant vacancy,” she said. “The perception is you have to do all the nasty parts of management and all the responsibility is on you. But equally, when they [sisters] are fabulous they can make the ward a completely different place for patient outcomes.”

Ms Johnston added that the programme would give graduates a system-wide view of the NHS.

She said: “One of the aspirations we have is to create a cohort of nurses that have learnt together over different trusts and care pathways.”

Readers' comments (77)

  • Why not just offer a shortened version of this to the existing staff nurses who want to become ward sisters. At least they will have had the clinical experience.

    Calling any nurse 'elite' is not a positive move, how do they think the rest of the staff will feel.

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  • Just what the profession needs more nurse managers with little or no clinical experience. I agree with Anonymous | 30-May-2012 9:35 allow the nurses who have qualified and gained experience to participate. Have they never heard the expression walk before you can run......

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  • This is about the most divisive idea I have heard for a long time. An elite of 15 ? so what do you intend to call the majority?

    So what are the objectives and outcomes of this crazy scheme ?

    What areas of clinical practise will these "elite" nurses enter ?

    Will they have the clinical skills and knowledge necessary to be seen as both competent and creditable or will they need another 4 year course to gain specialist skills and knowledge ?

    Me? I cant wait to "forget" the skills and knowledge I have built over many years because I will of course be forced to seek guidance, instruction and demonstration from "supernurse! !! She/He had better be good !

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  • What an absolutely ridiculous idea, guaranteed to fail, guaranteed to cost millions, guaranteed to cause wide spread offence to thousands of nurses who are effectively being told they are second rate. which genius thought this up, someone with limited or no clinical or managerial knowlege, I bet .It's not April 1st is it???

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  • How on earth can anyone gained the required 'hands on' eperience required for the role of a 'sister' on a four year course. Sister/charge nurses grow and develop into their roles with practical 'day-to-day' nursing experience. Does this mean that 'sisters/charge nurses' currently in post are not 'elite', as a charge nurse myself you may notice that I find this idea extremely insulting.

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  • I was not wrong in thinking that there are people in top positions who come up with the most foolish ideas & this is because they have limited knowledge of what NURSING actually is, does this mean all the training, qualifications & experience of the dedicated hard working nursing staff working under pressure with all the shortage & cuts trying their best to make a patient comfortable has no value? It is a waste of resources its high time the people who came up with this idea get off their high chairs & get down to simple basic nursing to know the actual needs of the patient & cut this beauracray in the NHS.

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  • what makes you think that just because some one coming out of a course called Elite will be better off than the Nurses already working with years of experience & qualification ?

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  • Another stupid idea.How can someone with 4years experience work across a range of areas and suddenly become sister?
    Another reason for the public to complain.
    An "Elite " ward sister with less experience then a junior band 5,and who will know BUGGER ALL!!
    you couldnt make it up

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  • This is why we have a problem in the nursing profession. Those who "lead" and are instrumental in formulating policy have not got a clue about the realities of nursing.

    It will be divisive, demotivating and a waste of money that would be better used elsewhere in the Health Service.

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  • tinkerbell

    No words, just a DEEP sigh.

    Will probably be muttering 'oh dear' all day long and no one will know why and i haven't the energy to tell them.

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  • Toby Ornottoby

    Oh this is SOOOO... funny. You really can't make this stuff up.

    Please, Nursing Times, whatever you do keep the file open on this one and keep us updated as to how these 'elites' progress.

    In particular keep a track of how many of the fifteen drop out during the duration of the course and then tell us how quickly the remaining few that actually complete give up nursing altogether when they find out the reality of the real job!

    Gosh this is good stuff! What entertainment! Only in the UK eh?

    On a slightly more serious note... Elite 'sisters?'... "Sisters?"... Do you mean to say that sexual discrimination will be revived and that the only candidates considered or selected will be female? Surely not?

    Could we report this scheme before it starts or do they not realize April Fool's Day was over a couple of months ago.


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  • Have the designers of this course not really questioned why there are so many ward manager vacancies, as quoted in the article? Another example of NHS managers not recognising the elephant in the room, but deflecting a problem. I agree with all that has been said. A dreadful waste of resources, and not respecting the foot soldiers in the NHS that really want to get on in their nursing career

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  • So, I'm coming to the end of a challenging, albeit brilliant, three year course only to find i'm qualifying as a 'non elite' staff nurse?


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  • tinkerbell

    Toby Ornottoby | 30-May-2012 1:54 pm

    Thanks for making me laugh. I have been sat here in a near catatonic stupor since reading this and plummeted down a black hole. Back up again though.

    These poor sods are being set up to 'fail', they can't be that intelligent as to not see it, the meat in the sandwich.

    My advice to them 'Run for the hills'.

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  • Isn't this one of the problems with our profession? As soon as we try and reach for the top, there are a bunch of nurses ready to bitch and claw and drag them right back down again!!!! Pathetic! You should all be ashamed!

    Yes, I agree completely that experience counts for a lot too, and that these positions should be opened up to every nurse.

    However, lets take a look at the academic position here, a three year DEGREE, plus a four year course on top of that? That is at very least another degree plus a MASTERS, or a masters plus a DOCTORATE. The article isn't very specific on the quals obtained but the timeframe fits. So why shouldn't those nurses with those quals be elite? Why shouldn't they be nurse leaders?

    Yes, those with previous quals and experience should be able to go for this as well, but it is only a pilot scheme at the moment.

    Imagine a nurse who has gained a degree or diploma, has a good few years experience under their belts, and then goes for this? Imagine what a leader they would be? Imagine the weight they would bring to the profession? Imagine if those of us on the shop floor (so to speak) had a valid academic way to ensure we could become the leaders and make the changes we all cry for?!?!? THIS IS IT!!!!

    But no, you all just go ahead and tear any way to advance our profession down as usual. This profession is a joke.

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  • This is why we have a problem in the nursing profession. Those who "lead" and are instrumental in formulating policy have not got a clue about the realities of nursing.

    It will be divisive, demotivating and a waste of money that would be better used elsewhere in the Health Service.

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  • Anonymous 4:21

    Pure qualifications and heaps of them dont automatically make a good leader or a good nurse.

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  • Oh Please, elite nurses! There is precious little career progression for the nurses both training and working now, let alone a group of so called elite nurses coming in and pulling the rug out from underneath them. What a silly idea.

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  • Anonymous | 30-May-2012 4:40 pm but now those 'good' leaders and 'good' nurses will have the qualifications to BECOME leaders!!!!

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  • Anonymous | 30-May-2012 6:00 pm and what do you think this is if not a way to progress in a career? If the pilot is successful I can imagine it will be roled out to ALL nurses!! The reason there is no career progression is exactly because of the bitching and sniping that is evident here! As soon as the profession tries to move up, the nurses drag it back down!

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