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Degree nurses 'not too posh to wash', says Willis Commission

  • 36 Comments

The move to degree-only entry to nursing is unlikely to affects nurses’ “ability or desire to care with compassion”, according to interim findings from an expert group set up by the Royal College of Nursing.

The Willis Commission on Nursing Education was launched in April. It is looking at how best to deliver pre-registration nurse education in order to provide a nursing workforce fit for future health and social care services in the UK.

It released a statement this week setting out its interim findings, based on a review of recent research, written submissions to the commission, and three days of interviews with expert witnesses.

The commission said the move to degree-level registration of “all nurses in the UK does not appear to affect their ability or desire to care with compassion as well as expertise”.

The minimum academic level for pre-registration nursing education in England will be a degree from September 2013. This will bring England into line with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The commission said a key theme emerging from its review was the “need to dispel the myth” that better educated nurses are less able to care, and to promote an accurate public image of nursing education.

“With all pre-registration nursing education in the UK moving to degree level, the commission has seen no evidence to support the view that graduate nurses are ‘too posh to wash’,” it said.

However, the commission also noted that health service employers and universities needed to work in closer partnership “to ensure that nursing students are better prepared and supported in their practice learning experiences”.

Another “key emerging theme”, it said, was the shape of the future nursing workforce. It said a national clinical nursing structure was needed to provide clarity about the future roles and responsibilities of graduate nurses, in the context of the multidisciplinary health and social care team.

“This links closely with concerns about the lack of regulation, consistent standards and training for healthcare support workers, who play an increasingly important part in delivering care,” the commission noted.

The commission’s final report is due to be published by the end of 2012.

It is chaired by former head teacher Lord Willis of Knaresborough, and has seven other members.

These include Subo Shanmuganathan, head of learning and development at Macmillan Cancer Support, Margaret Smith dean of the school of nursing and midwifery at Dundee University, and Veronica Snow, programme lead for the Wales Palliative Care Implementation Board.

“The public needs to know what it can expect of registered nurses, and what degree-level registration means,” said Lord Willis.

“We need to get the emphasis right and select candidates who have all the qualities that good nurses need, working with head, hands and heart. And we need to make sure we have good patient and public involvement in the development, delivery and review of nursing education.”

  • 36 Comments

Readers' comments (36)

  • I wish I had the time to wash patients on a more regular basis, nursing is not what I expected it to be post registration, however this has nothing to do with the fact I have a degree!

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  • I have lived in Canada for the past 4 years. Entry to nursing here has been baccalaureate degree for two decades or more. Today, these degree RNs show very little compassion. They work independently and you would never see a RN feed or wash patients. The bulk of the hands on care is provided by health care aides. The whole ethos of being a "caring profession" has changed with degree entry status.

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  • Degree nurses 'not too posh to wash', Willis Commission says

    I have problems believing this statement.

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  • Isn't the point that 'caring', loosely equates to 'empathising with the patient', and you can be clever without possessing that quality ? If you've already got it, a degree probably won't remove it - but I'm not sure that the 'caring instinct' can be taught at a deeper level.

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  • It's about bloody time we had an official statement on this issue, and especially one that states "Degree nurses 'not too posh to wash"! I wholeheartedly agree with that statement!

    To counter a couple of the frankly shocking comments on here...

    Larry, isn't that more to do with the fact that there are too few RNs? Of course HCAs do more basic care if the RNs are far too thin on the ground and their time is monopolised by the clinical care that UNTRAINED health care aides as you call them CANNOT do!!! It's basic common sense! If a car needs fixing, but there is only one mechanic in a team of workers, would you ask the mechanic to go and make the tea?

    Anonymous | 10-Aug-2012 3:01 pm I fail to see what your point is. I am sure you are right in the fact that 'caring' (as loose an umbrella term as ever there was) cannot be taught academically. However, surely those people who train to be Nurses now have BOTH the intelligence to undertake the academic side, PLUS the caring qualities that attracted them to nursing in the first place as opposed to law, or teaching, or science, or maths or any one of the many degrees out there? How is the fact that nurses are now expected to 'be clever' as you put it, supposed to detract from the fact that they are also caring?

    Here's the answer. IT DOESN'T!

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  • Anonymous | 10-Aug-2012 4:11 pm

    'However, surely those people who train to be Nurses now have BOTH the intelligence to undertake the academic side, PLUS the caring qualities that attracted them to nursing in the first place as opposed to law, or teaching, or science, or maths or any one of the many degrees out there? How is the fact that nurses are now expected to 'be clever' as you put it, supposed to detract from the fact that they are also caring?

    Here's the answer. IT DOESN'T!'

    I think the issue raised by the anonymous above you, was what you mentioned re BOTH and PLUS - if potential nurses are genuinely being screened for their 'caring qualities' as well as their academic capabilities, then fine.

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  • anonymous | 10-Aug-2012 5:04 pm, hmm, I took the previous comment to mean that those undertaking an academic course are somehow less caring than their counterparts undertaking the course say 5, 10, whatever years ago. But maybe that was my misinterpretation.

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  • what does being 'posh' have to do with washing? either you are a nurse or you are not!

    what do people think 'posh' means?

    COED 11th ed below:


    "posh informal
    n adjective
    1 elegant or stylishly luxurious.
    2 chiefly British upper-class.
    n adverb British in an upper-class way.
    n verb (posh something up) British smarten something up.

    DERIVATIVES
    poshly adverb
    poshness noun

    WORD HISTORY
    Posh is first recorded in the early 20th century. Its origin is unknown: it may come from the obsolete thieves' slang word posh, which meant either 'money' or 'a dandy'. There is no basis for the popular theory that posh is an acronym of port out starboard home, referring to the choice of more expensive berths, out of the heat of the sun, on ships between England and India."

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  • After 37 years nursing, in both adult and mental health parts of the register, I am just glad that I am getting out of the system.Basically there is just too much rubbish talked about. I feel so sorry for those qualifying, as the burn out rate will be immense.

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  • The word 'posh' is only used because it rhymes with 'wash'. It suggests that nurses with degrees think they are better in some way than nurses without degrees and would not lower themselves to wash a patient, they are just there to do the technical stuff and challenge doctors.

    We could make up lots of rhymes, why not, there is nothing more important going on in nursing at the moment than the age-old argument of degree vs non-degree which most of us are getting really bored with now.

    - too mean to clean

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