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Newly trained nurses 'not up to the mark'


Chief Executive Peter Carter said that many newly trained nurses are “simply not up to the mark” having not spend enough time on hospital wards.

In an interview with The Times, chief executive Peter Carter said new nurses had spent too much time in classrooms rather than gaining practical experience.

He added that the amount of untrained workers had grown “exponentially” over the last 10 years and many were performing tasks without formal training, thereby putting patients at risk.

Mr Carter said: “What we have on hospital wards, and particularly in domiciliary care and care homes, is an unregulated, untrained workforce who are picking up so much of this on the job as they go along. Frankly, it’s nothing short of a disgrace.

“We require regulation and training in just about every other walk of life. Gas fitters have to be registered; but somehow when it comes to patient care we’ve got this unregulated, untrained workforce and then people wonder from time to time why there are problems.”

A spokesman for the Department of Health said: “The government intends to establish the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care (currently the CHRE) as the national accrediting body for a system of assured voluntary registers for groups that are currently not subject to statutory professional regulation, which includes healthcare assistants.”


Readers' comments (41)

  • Well, Carter and the RCN have changed their tune as they welcomed an all degree profession by 2013. If you want an all degree profession, you need to attend university and you can't be in uni and getting ward experience at the same time. You reap what you sow, Carter!

    Just another instance of Carter dodging the real issues that concern RCN members at the moment!

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  • Who the hell does this buffoon think he is? Of course we spend time in the classroom, but student Nurses spend half their time on the wards too! There are problems with Nurse training yes, but it is simplistic and idiotic in the extreme to lay the blame wholly on the 'classroom' aspect of the training. Regardless, newly qualified staff Nurses are exactly that, QUALIFIED AND REGISTERED STAFF NURSES!!!! To compare them with an untrained workforce is an insult! Newly qualified Nurses need support whilst they gain their first few years of experience, of course, but that has always been true of this and any other profession. Experience only ever comes with time served, regardless of training. Why doesn't carter try answering to the fact that the RCN are not ensuring that all trusts/workplaces are conforming to the preceptorship for example? Would it be perhaps because this would involve him doing something useful for a change? The sooner our profession is rid of this fool the better, because every time he opens his mouth, he damages our profession.

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  • So is Dr Carter talking about nurses, or untrained care workers? Practical experience is of course necessary but when I'm a patient on a ward I want a nurse who's spent a long time in the classroom so they can identify my SIADH, my non-convulsive status, my life-threatening AAA. And to know which of my drugs is prescribed at the wrong dose or interacts with curent medication, as well as having the confidence to challenge the doctors who may have got it wrong.
    Untrained care workers are a completely different issue, and of course they and their clients would benefit if they had more training, rather than less, in whatever setting is appropriate.
    Sometimes I despair that we are represented by an RCN which appears to peddle such inflammatory nonsense, denigrating the vital academic aspect of nursing as if all the job entails is keeping people clean and fed. This is of course vital too, but ill people need professional nurses around them who can understand their condition at the clinical level.

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  • This is NOT what Carter should be talking about!! Where is the required robust response (too much alliteration!) from the RCN to the scandalous attacks, by the media, on the Nursing profession???


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  • The course is 50% theory and 50% practice so actually quite balanced. This is a much higher % of practice than courses in other countries for example Australia. Dr Carter really should be pointing out what a fantastic job nurses do in a very difficult climate. The fact that he adds to the negative media coverage is scandalous and leaves a question over whether he is suitable for his job.

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  • michael stone

    I hate to defend Dr Carter, because the RCN refuses to give straight answers to the questions I ask it - so I'm defending him through gritted teeth !

    But he was interviewed on R4's Today yesterday, and I think his position was actually this:

    1) He wants HCAs to better trained and regulated

    2) He commented that ALL newly-qualified nurses face a steep learning curve when they begin nursing post-qualification, but what he said is that SOME nurses are not being adequately prepared by their courses. He was actually saying that SOME university courses do not include sufficient on-ward experience, to enable the nurses who are trained on those courses to cope with the 'shock' of real nursing. He was blaming the universities, NOT the nurses.

    Oddly, I assume that only NMC-approved university courses can lead to registration, but I don't think I heard him blame the NMC.

    I don't know if that is helpful - it might be.

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  • Well said Mags and the two anons above me, I could not agree more with all of you.

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  • As said above, yes Mags and Anons, that is exactly what I am thinking. I am thinking about whether to write a letter to the BBC to ask for a bit of 'balance', please! I expect uninformed ignorant nurse 'bashing' from the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph (read a lot by patients so they probably worry them!) and I can choose not to buy that toilet paper, but not so much from the BBC which we all pay for. The brief report on Radio 4 was very sensationalist, saying that patients are 'frightened' with the implication that they are frightened of us the nurses. It made me feel guilty for my profession even though I and my colleagues would always endevour to alleviate patients' fears as soon as we've got a minute to talk to them. As ever the majority have to feel they need to defend themselves because of a minority of bad nurses who seem to get all the attention. Radio 4 and 5 (Adrian Goldberg investigates re: poor standard of English of some NHS staff - very sensationalist I thought!) both appear to be biased towards negative reports about the health service and about 'the wards' and nursing generally. Is there some sort of gagging order about unsafe nurse:patient ratios? Why is no one (and especially the unions) talking about this? And am I right to suspect the government are more than happy to let the biased press carry on denigrating the NHS and particularly the largest section of the workforce??

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  • As a student nurse I have to say that whilst I am saddened by this interview I cannot disagree with Mr Carter's sentiments. I feel that the education I have received in the university setting has been woefully inadequate. Lectures attempt to instil in us qualities such as altruism without giving us the vaguest idea as to practical procedures.

    I think back with shame to my first placement, with 5 weeks worth of lectures on more in abstract topics such as societal inequalities I knew nothing about the practicalities of bed bathing, bed pans, manual handling procedures and the like. As such I was taught by a very experienced HCA who had very definite and (I later discovered) completely unsafe ideas about how things should be done. I was horrified when I realised that I had learnt dangerous methods and was endangering my patients by using them. Given that university lectures completely lack practical education students are ill equipped to identify potentially unsafe procedures. Those who lack the initiative to find out for themselves will simply pick up bad habits from often poorly educated HCAs.

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  • Anonymous | 23-Sep-2011 9:19 pm I understand completely what you say, I spent half of my own training feeling the same. The only advice I can give you is hang on to staff Nurses, specialists and Doctors like a lympet, learn from them and read, read, read. Do not let wards fob you off to be an unpaid HCA. You are supposed to learn from your placements too, that is where we learn the most, so be a little pushy, ask questions, ask to watch or join in, do whatever you need to do. However, remember that you still need the theory behind those practical procedures too. THAT is where the uni's SHOULD come in, It is THIS that the universities should be concentrating on, the A&P, pathophysiology, pharmacology, etc etc, not bloody communication or research methods (they have their place, but not filling up entire bloody modules).

    However, I digress, as I said earlier yes there are certainly problems with the training, but this fool should be DEALING with the problems that face our profession, not simply issuing statements that add fuel to the already hate filled media propaganda against our profession.

    Michael Stone, apologies I missed your post earlier. Anyway, I think I may have heard or read a different interview than you? (It wasn't on the radio anyway) because from what I came away with was the distinct impression that he WAS denigrating newly qualified Nurses. No distinction was made between some and most. He won't say a damn thing against the useless NMC, no more than he will do anything useful to help improve our training and our profession as a whole. He's an embarrassment to our profession.

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