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'It feels strange to be the last of the nursing diplomas'

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11 June, 2012

It may seem very naive of me to say this but when I started my nurse training back in September 2010, I didn’t really consider the academic process too much - I just wanted to be a nurse.

However, since then I have become more aware of the politics of education. In particular the fact that my intake is one of the last that will achieve our nursing status using a diploma course.

The group behind mine are entirely made up of students on the degree course and it feels a bit strange for me to be riding the crest of the diploma wave.

There is now a finite amount of times an unsuccessful student can be put back. A student may not have the ability to leave the diploma course and re-enter on the degree course.

There is also the financial issue. As a diploma student I am given a bursary which (just about) allows me to live as a student.

A student in my situation doing the degree course however would have their funds means tested and would in all likelihood result in a lot less money.

Finally, there is the recent discussion on the Nursing Times site which asked “should ward sisters/charge nurses have a first-class honours degree?”.

The debate over how much or how little a nurse needs to be educated will continue on but it is certainly a worrying time for students.

When my intake started the NHS seemed secure, jobs were aplenty and out of all of the complaints levied at nurses their level of education seemed quite low on that list - but today students need to worry more about education than ever before. 

What do you think?

Readers' comments (24)

  • Hi Adam, yes I agree it does seem strange to be one of the last students studying through the Diploma pathway. I'm also concerned about failing a module and will we get another chance or what will be the outcome. I also worry about employment, and will there be jobs available for when I do qualify. The bursary is also a concern as like you quoted, ' just about allows us to live'. I hope after all this hard work and stress it will all be worth it and jobs are there for us to start our career as qualified nurses.

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  • the question is whether, in a few years time, those with degrees are going to be favoured over those with diplomas in the job market?

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  • Preferential treatment for graduates in years to come? Although I'm doing a degree course (coming to the end of my first year), I very much hope not - and, in any case, I doubt it as the way that things appear to be heading with the NHS indicates that status (worth precious little in my view) and salary (worth rather more!!) will be governed by supply and demand and not much else.

    With or without a degree, job-seekers will be offered posts on the lowest pay rates that applicants will be prepared to accept. Quality of nursing, in my view, is about commitment and an ability to deliver; holders of degrees and diplomas should be equally capable of supplying this: in other words, it has nothing to do with academic achievement - which may comfortably left in the compartment reserved for research.

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  • George Kuchanny

    Degree or Diploma Adam? Let's look at it from different perspectives for a moment.
    1. How many satisfied customers will remember you and how many will owe their wellbeing to what you do.
    2. How likely are you to be seen as an asset by an employer.
    3. How likely are you going to think that what you do is worthwhile and will give you job satisfaction.

    These are three perspectives there not one. They are all important. Number one is very important for patients. Number two is the one where your careeer begins. Number three is the one for life. Your life.

    I think number 2 will follow on with not too much to worry about. But a word of caution may be appropritate here. But a word of caution on number 3. Choose your employing Trust carefully, there is huge variation in the quality of care you can deliver from Trust to Trust. Number 1 and 3 ultimately depend on that.

    I would hope that you do get through the diploma so my very best wishes for you on that aim. You can see from just a few different perspectives (there are more of course...) that a career is clearly more than the start. It has a middle, hopefully very long and even and end. Having said all that, back to your article if I may, I think a diploma IS a good start!

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  • Anonymous | 11-Jun-2012 5:37 pm not really, I really hate this argument as it is completely nonsensical.

    Look, first of all there is VERY LITTLE DIFFERENCE practically between the diploma and the degree even despite the fact that a degree is academically worth more, and secondly in a few years time, those with a diploma will have at the very least a few years experience which is the most important thing any employer looks for, (believe me!) and many will also have, or be working towards further qualifications too, wether that is a top up degree, a seperate degree, or another qualification entirely which allows them to specialise.

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  • Anonymous | 12-Jun-2012 7:45 am

    Anonymous | 11-Jun-2012 5:37 pm not really, I really hate this argument as it is completely nonsensical.

    It was not an argument. It was a question.

    Thank you for your answer.

    I hope you are right but I don't know what goes on in the minds of employers which is why I asked.

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  • Anonymous | 12-Jun-2012 8:04 am sorry by argument I was referring to the 'age old' one about degree V diploma, not specifically your question.

    Experience counts for more, believe me. As newly qualifieds, it doesn't really matter. It WILL matter wether you have a degree or diploma later on when you are wanting advanced quals (like a Masters say) for a specialist role.

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  • employees will want degree rather than diploma nurses if they have a choice between 2 candidates as they will not then have to let them have time off for further study.

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  • Anonymous | 12-Jun-2012 2:28 pm

    from Anonymous | 12-Jun-2012 8:04

    "Experience counts for more, believe me..."

    that is the way I see it too but I wasn't sure about employers especially as recruitment is now often left to 'human remains' officers who don't necessarily understand what nursing is all about and all the finer points of our job.

    I just hope for the sake of future nurses we are both right.

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  • Anonymous | 12-Jun-2012 8:28 pm

    how about CPD and higher degrees?

    everybody without exception needs the former in order to keep up to date and safe in their practice and it is unfair that there is always an expectation that nurses can carry it out in their own free time and at their own expense.

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  • Anonymous | 12-Jun-2012 8:28 pm yes they will, if you demand it. The only difference being the TYPE of qualification.

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  • George Kuchanny

    Ha! Ha! Anonymous 12 Jun 8:34pm "recruitment is now often left to 'human remains' ". In my day the main part of the interview for Human Resources folk consisted of showing them a Lassie film (yep showing my age now!). If they laugh at the end when the dog dies - they get the job...

    My guess is that a HR person is going to flag this comment as offensive :)

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  • tinkerbell

    what's happening to nursing nowadays just feels strange to me, full stop.

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  • Get your diploma and then do the degree, but for what it's worth, I didn't find the degree course any more challenging than the diploma course (apart from doing it part time whilst working full time)

    Best wishes

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  • I Think a lot of patients dont really know if the nurse, has a diploma or degree. What they are interested in, is the way they are looked after. After all we are all hear to make sure the patient recieves the best care possible. I am doing the diploma. and loving every minute of it.

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  • skills, integrity and personality are far more important than diplomas.

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  • Anonymous | 15-Jun-2012 7:42 pm

    That hits the nail on the head.

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  • Anonymous | 15-Jun-2012 7:37 pm

    quite right. I don't think patients know or are very interested.

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  • Hi Adam,

    I am a student nurse from the September 09 cohort. I too worried about getting jobs an going up against the degree students, however in my personal opinion, there is little difference between the two, apart from a matter of word count in assignments and a slight different take on modules. Dipolma, I think get a much more rich placement experience, as although time spent in practice is equal, we have shorter placements resulting being placed in a variety of settings.

    In terms of jobs etc..as I said I too was worried. However job gain is really based on the individual who is right for the job. All the interviews I attended made no mention of degree/diploma and I managed to secure my perfect job in Haemato-Oncology along with an ever increasing number of my peers doing the same.

    Head down, chin up and you will be fine.

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  • If nursing is to become an all graduate profession, then it is likely that all diploma nurses will eventually be required to top up to the degree or risk being downgraded to HCA.

    The NMC has already stated that this will not happen... but I'm sure something like this has happened before despite these promises... Enrolled nurses? They were forcibly downgraded if they could not complete further training to become staff nurses.

    What do you think?

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