'There is no substitute for a knowledgeable, confident nurse'
Julie Greenwood, registered nurse and managing director of Hays Healthcare, welcomes the move to an all-degree profession, but only if careful steps are taken to avoid the creation of a two-tier profession
The mandatory requirement for degrees is a welcome development and will help to improve the professionalism of nursing. However, there is the danger that the mandatory degrees will create a two-tier profession, particularly given that 73% of nurses do not currently have degrees.
In a profession facing a shortage of 25,000 nurses in 2013, we need to do everything we can to encourage people into the career. I started my career as a nurse and then a midwife and I’m still a RGN, so while wondering how the move to complete degree nursing will affect me personally, I’m also considering how recruiting will be affected.
My concern is that it may discourage those who have no current qualifications and would like to join the profession mid-career. Given that there is such a high percentage of people who take this route into the profession – and it is actively encouraged because of the life experience they can bring – this needs to be addressed.
It is vital that the profession doesn’t overlook the needs of the patient. Technology and treatments are always evolving, but there is no substitute for a knowledgeable, confident nurse who takes the time to care for patients’ physical and psychological needs. Good nurses have a good balance between theoretical understanding and strong people skills developed through time spent on wards.
This development presents us with one of the biggest opportunities to drive the profession forward and plug the skill gaps, but this must be done in a manner that avoids elitism.
If new nurses are spending less time with patients before they qualify, it is critical that the NHS adapts the current preceptorship schemes to support this. Universities will need to be involved in this consultation. There are already limited places and it will be interesting to see how quickly they are faced with oversubscription or increased drop-out rates.
This development presents us with one of the biggest opportunities to drive the profession forward and plug the skill gaps, but this must be done in a manner that avoids elitism. There are still so many unanswered questions. What will happen to current nurses? Will they be supported to obtain a degree? Also, if existing nurses are obliged to take time away from clinical areas to obtain more qualifications, what will the impact be on the NHS? Due consideration needs to be given to possible cost implications from ensuring the shifts are covered while nurses qualify. In a time when we need to do all we can to attract people into the profession this is a step forward, but only if the detail is rapidly addressed.
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