The noise about students in the Francis report threatens to distract people from some of the most important issues outlined in those 290 recommendations.
Of course, the plans to see prospective students spend three months in a hands-on care role pre-training is to be applauded, as are plans to improve selection of the right kinds of candidates to become student nurses.
But let’s not pretend that every bit of poor care that happens is by nurses who are “too academic”
But let’s not pretend that every bit of poor care that happens is by nurses who are “too academic”. Let’s not reinvigorate the “too clever to care” debate.
In the past few days, I’ve heard several news reports decry the “cleverness” of nurses.
People have said that they “just want to be mini-doctors” and that this move to “graduates” had made nurses less focused on the practical. There was talk on BBC’s The One Show last night of a student nurse who had never been on a ward.
I wonder what year that nurse was in or if the course they were on did a higher ratio of academic study first before putting students on clinical placement. Some do front load their students with more knowledge to try and ensure they are safe to care and can understand more by the time they hit the wards.
The truth is that 50% of student nurses’ time is still spent on practice, they do spend lots of time on placement, and this is a vital part of the training.
Our Student Nursing Times Awards celebrate brilliant students
Our Student Nursing Times Awards celebrate brilliant students, and the placement providers, mentors and educational establishments teaching them. And judging these has proved to me that excellence does exist in student selection, education and practical training.
That’s not to say it’s consistently perfect and that it couldn’t be improved. Or that these new recommendations won’t enhance training.
But we must not let Francis be about keeping nurses “in their place”. We must not let it add more fuel to the debate that nurses have no right to “know” or “understand” but just to do. They are not and should never be considered doctors’ handmaidens. They are patient advocates, and healthcare professionals who must put patients first.
Patients will be safer if they are looked after by competent, highly skilled, highly trained nurses. Nurses who can spot what is happening to a patient when they do their observations. Nurses who see, who understand and can interpret.
Knowledge is not a bad thing. It is a positive force, let’s not pretend otherwise.