Have I ever told you about my old woodwork teacher? Mr Spooner had the social skills of custard.
I have no doubt that he could knock up a coffee table out of an abandoned tree in no time, but you wouldn’t want to gather round said table with coffee and biscuits chatting with him afterwards. Nope, you’d make some excuse about needing to alphabetise your hair and usher Mr Spooner, his grubby overalls, aggressive nature and collection of chisels from your house as quickly as you could.
Anyway, this was all a long time ago and I’m not bitter. But I suspect Mr Spooner had a degree. Indeed, he may have had a degree in wood management and some sort of teaching diploma. (I can’t help wondering if he might have just been a bloke with some chisels and his own wood and so nobody checked his qualifications, but let’s assume he was allowed to do his job.)
‘Getting a degree must entail doing what we need nurses to do - not what we imagine graduates in geography, media studies or woodwork are doing’
And despite my shrugging contempt for the man, I think it makes sense that he should have to have qualifications to do a job that has something to do with people - even though in this case by people I mean sneering disengaged teenage boys.
It makes complete sense that if we attach value to a job we should attach some sort of social value to the qualification that allows us to do it. So if degrees have social value, making nursing a graduate profession makes sense - as long as what qualifies the nurse for the degree corresponds with what it is that good nurses do. And, surely, if there is controversy over nursing being an all degree profession, it is about tailoring the degree isn’t it? Getting a degree entails doing what we need nurses to do - not what we imagine graduates in geography, media studies or even woodwork might have to do.
When I did my nurse training I didn’t give any thought to how much academic credit the course gave me. However, I remember being told by someone smug that it was the equivalent of a weekend photography course. I didn’t mind. I had already done a degree in something else and I knew that the nurse training had been a more profound, challenging and developmental educational experience than what had come before. However, that profundity did not correspond to anything that was academically measurable.
But academia has now begun to learn to measure the application of skills, and begun to value them. So nursing is not dehumanised by degrees, rather it is the other way round, universities are lent wisdom and humanity by nursing.
Surely, though, the challenge is to drive that change forward, to make sure nursing curricula are full of things that manifest the essence of nursing, lending compassion and kindness, emotional intelligence and a capacity for wise judgement. Nurses should have been better recognised for those abilities in the past. An all graduate profession enables us to reward the next generation for those things, if we remain mindful of what it is that must be at the heart of the education.