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All-graduate detractors branded sexist


Health minister Ann Keen has accused media commentators of sexism following media coverage about nursing becoming a graduate-only entry profession.

The government last week rubber-stamped plans for nursing in England to become an all-graduate profession by 2013. It follows recommendation of the move by the Nursing and Midwifery Council in September 2008.

But Ms Keen launched a strongly worded attack on some commentators who said nurses did not need degrees and should instead focus on “caring”, saying she believed the comments were motivated by sexism.

Speaking to the Chief Nursing Office summit in Newcastle last week she said: “I have really had enough of this. Do not let them get away with patronising us.”

She told Nursing Times afterwards that the perception would not be the same if nurses were not mainly female. She said: “This is a personal view. We are predominantly a female profession and I wonder about the status of nursing had it been all men. It is about ‘women’s work’.”

Chief nursing officer for NHS England Dame Christine Beasley also told Nursing Times she thought “there is some truth” in Ms Keen’s accusation of sexism.

“There is still an issue that because nursing has some of those feminine caring skills, people think anyone can do it. It’s a very sad reflection of a male dominated media,” said Dame Christine.

Highlighting examples of why a degree education was important for enhancing modern nursing, she said it was not limited to complex technical procedures.

She said: “It isn’t just wizzy techy skills, it’s the ability to sit with someone with schizophrenia and talk to them, or with a new mum who could potentially abuse their child.”

Dame Christine also acknowledged that nurse leaders had to be sensitive when discussing the move to an all graduate entry profession, because they did not want existing nurses without degrees to feel they were “not good enough” – something Dame Christine said was “not true at all.”

At the summit, she announced the publication of a guide to nursing careers designed to show the opportunities for existing non-graduates, for example taking further qualifications to degree level. It will be made available on the NHS Careers website in coming weeks.

Department of Health programme director for Modernising Nursing Careers Chris Caldwell said: “When we introduced graduate nursing one of the challenges was the way that would interface with the existing.

“The existing workforce may feel a bit undervalued. We want to say they are essential – they have degree level experience and are often thinking like a graduate.”


Readers' comments (7)

  • I have a degree and I am not making a sexist comment when I say that nursing should not be an all degree profession. I am totally against it and think the higher echalons in nursing are not educated yet to realise that degree level thinking does not come with common sense, and nursing needs common sense. Some people with degrees have common sense and many do not. Many with degrees, including medical ones have 'the knowledge' but are abysmal at putting it into action. Some highly knowledgable professionals in their own field often appear blind to other areas that are of equal importance and cannot see the holistic effect.

    No, it is a big mistake to force all nurses to have degrees, men or women, and I happen to be a woman.

    We need to evaluate people who have potential to be great nurses, not just those with the ability to project their knowledge on paper then throw the baby out with the bath water.

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  • I remember as a pre nursing student in 1977-78 before i started my nurse training, working alongside students who were taking bachelor of science degree and RGN awards together and although they were very knowledgeable, they really lacked people skills and couldnt relate to patients at all. There is going to come a time when graduate nurses will reflect this time i fear, and that the caring nurse who performs compassionate care to our patients that we had when sen's were on the ward will be lost

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  • I have been in nursing since 1974 when I started my adult nurse training. Now at the age of 53 I am studying for a professional doctorate having completed a BA and MSc all in nursing related topics, and done whilst working as a nurse. It seems to be widely accepted that caring and academic knowledge are mutually exclusive qualities. I disagree strongly. I worked as a staff nurse & sister for many years and in gaining more theoretical knowledge I feel I cared for patients to a much higher standard being the 'knowlegeable doer' which I still see as an essential feature in nursing. Being more knowledgeable I felt enabled me to explain things more clearly to patients, have an understanding of them and have empathy. I also enjoy the practical side of assisting patients with personal hygiene, toileting, nutritional needs etc. which I see as an essential part of nursing. As nurses we are in a unique position to provide care with a good knowledge base and this should be encouraged and developed.

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  • If I were a patient I would want a nurse with as much knowledge as possible. A student nurse friend of mine recently spotted some irregularity in the breast of a woman she was washing and alerted a doctor. The woman was found to have Ca breast which was previously undetected. My friend had the necessary knowledge to spot the signs plus the initiative to request an opinion from a doctor. I agree with graduate nurses but the question is what the course should consist of.

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  • “It isn’t just wizzy techy skills, it’s the ability to sit with someone with schizophrenia and talk to them, or with a new mum who could potentially abuse their child.”

    Do they teach you how to do this on a degree programme? I see very few graduate nurses that feel their role incorporates talking to clients. The bread and butter of mental health nursing is communication and interpersonal skills which cannot be taught.

    Sadly, we have a 2 tier nursing system as a result of there being 2 levels of entry qualification. Diploma qualified nurses are already being made to feel less respected, despite years of professional and life experience and are being upstaged by graduates with none of these essential attributes.

    How can we be having a recruitment crisis one minute and then raising the entry level the next? Surely Diploma for all would make more sense?

    "Caring" is not gender specific as I'm sure many men will agree. I think this is evidence of womens paranoia and oversensitivity that they feel the patronised. The Media may be male dominated but in this case it is also right!

    I'm proud that my clients feel I care about them individually and if I could have a "caring nurse" badge, I'd wear it with pride rather than burning my bra!!

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  • Can we please move away from old fashioned discrimination labelling graduate nurses as purely academic and out of touch with patients and diploma nurses as caring...why cant we be both? i have a degree but am no less caring and don't consider myself out of touch with patients. I would argue that the majority of the public would want to be looked after by a highly trained, competent, well educated and caring nurse and this can be achieved both through the diploma and degree pathways. When i trained 5 years ago 99% of my course content was taught alongside the diploma students-the only major difference was the disseratation module. I pride myself on my degree but dont think we should rule out entry to diploma nurses but at the same time maybe peple can realise graduate nurses are real nurses too, with people skills and academic knowledge, surely the best of both worlds?

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  • I do not support an all graduate nursing qualification. I have always maintained that there should continue to be different levels that complement each other and provide an all round workforce. Many people (male and female) will be excluded from nursing by this move and recruitment will continue to be a problem. The continual creation and development of HCA roles surely backs this up.
    I don't deny that advanced knowledge is commendable, I myself began as an SRN, then later took a Diploma, eventually followed by Bsc and latterly Masters modules. Had there been an equivalent move when I started for a higher level of entry I may never have managed it.

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