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2020 degree target not 'meaningful'

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A requirement for all nurse leaders and specialists to have degrees by 2020 risks not being “meaningful”, senior nurses have said.

It is being considered as one of the recommendations of the Prime Minister’s Commission on the Future of Nursing and Midwifery, whose draft recommendations Nursing Times exclusively revealed last week.

This week some nurse leaders said the focus should instead be on better ways of testing leadership skills, and developing clearer pathways for becoming a specialist – which could include regulation of advanced practice, another of the commission’s recommendations.

Queen’s Nursing Institute director Rosemary Cook told Nursing Times: “There is a lot more to both leadership and specialism than having a degree.

“There are a lot of people with a degree who are not necessarily great leaders.

“As a standalone requirement it’s not very meaningful. It’s a bad indicator of what somebody is like.

She said nursing needed to answer the question: “What does a leader need?”

Unite national officer for health Karen Reay said the commission’s draft recommendation was too prescriptive. “There are lots people who have fantastic knowledge and skills and are natural leaders but are in their 50s and don’t want to go and do a degree,” she said.

The commission’s wish for all nurse leaders and specialists to have degrees by 2020 was underpinned by its call for greater investment in continuing professional development. Another of its draft recommendations said there should be a new scheme to develop potential nurse leaders that would spot talent and provide mentorship and training.

Jane Scullion, respiratory nurse consultant at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, said there was a need for clearer definition of specialist nursing, but a degree requirement would not necessarily provide that.

She said most specialists already had degrees but they were not necessarily relevant to the work they were doing.

Ms Scullion said: “It is a question of whether a degree necessarily gives you leadership or specialist skills.”

“It would be great to develop pathways along similar lines to medical education so we have a clear way of developing into a specialist post.”

The commission’s recommendations may also challenge advanced and specialist nurses who have been promoted to band 8 and above, but do not have evidence they continue to work at that level.

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Readers' comments (2)

  • This is all in all a good idea to raise the academic levels of nurse leaders and specialists but in reality there is not enough funding in the system to support this. Many nurses and midwives I know, like myself had to fully fund themselves for degrees, masters and specialist courses. They are expected to use their annual leaves to cover university attendance while holding a full time job. At the end of this long tunnel, some of us are not rewarded in any way and some even been told that the job description does not require us to have such academic level/ such specialist skills. This can only move forward if the system and attitudes change.

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  • Yet another way to increase the rich poor divide.
    Has anyone realised that not all competent experienced nurses can afford to pay for a degree.

    What happens then. They get to stagnate in a post with no career pathway in which to develop.

    Great Idea!

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