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“I will continue to tell the public why nurse education is crucial”


Today I had a fight; not a real “coming to blows” fight but I had to fight. I had to have the courage and wisdom to stand up to a group of lay people.

In healthcare we have a language, understanding, culture and humour that does not always translate well to others. I had to explain why education is so important in nursing. Not the media version but my version. I needed the wisdom to realise that I had an opportunity, as a nurse, to explain the realities and challenges of nurse education that I am part of and that my colleagues face each day.

I was bombarded with “Why are nurses educated to degree level, they don’t need it?”, “What was wrong with the old style training?”, “Nurses have lost the ability to care!”, “There is too much emphasis on academia”.

I have always defended nursing and professional development; first as a healthcare assistant, then a student nurse, a staff nurse, a ward sister and in my current role. Always defending the education and training I was receiving. That education has enabled me to be the nurse I am today.

Despite any job title I have had, when asked what I do I always reply: “I am a nurse.” I am proud to be a nurse, I believe in my profession and my colleagues. My current role as resuscitation officer allows me to cross many specialties within the NHS; I see excellence - and the opposite - in every area. In my role I try to encourage all staff to be better. Nursing is not just a vocation for me; it is part art, part science and part of who I am.

Being unwell in the strange environment of a hospital is a frightening experience. Having someone to care for you holistically, who is on your side and can understand and translate what is happening is invaluable. Being able to offer this comes partly from education, partly from who you are.

I have the knowledge and skills to work with others to help save a life, make someone more comfortable, smile, hold a hand, listen and make cups of tea. I think I have the courage and wisdom to face daily life and possible death with my patients and their families. I continue to offer support and guidance to the staff I work with to enable them to face their ever-increasing workload with professionalism and pride.

I accept that for some people no matter what I say it will be rebuked. In this instance five people listened, questioned and challenged me. Three acknowledged and understood my point of view, two refused to see that education could make a difference. Without education that conversation would never have happened; this was my personal victory. I still have much to learn but what I hope is that with passion and commitment I can hold onto my courage and keep explaining and helping people to realise that nursing is a dynamic, complex and evolving profession that is striving to be the best and better. We need education if we are to achieve this.

Victoria Cooper is resuscitation officer at Western Sussex Hospitals Foundation Trust and MSc student at the University of Surrey


Readers' comments (17)

  • tinkerbell

    Well done for standing your ground Victoria.

    Nurses not only need to be gentle, sensitive and caring but very tough too on occasions to stand up and act in their patients best interests.

    Perhaps the confusion is between the words education and degree, you can have one without the other, but a degree is the current requirement, before it was a diploma and before that state registered final exams and whatever criteria came before that.

    So long as standards are maintained and improved within the nursing profession education is the corner stone on which everything else is built.

    There may be those for or against a degree but would anyone seriously argue against an education.

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  • Victoria and Tinkerbell,

    I think its vital that Nurses are respected and valued. Nursing is so much more than people say it is, you have to be a very special person to be one.

    Nursing is a contradiction:

    Nurses are scientists
    Nursing is complicated
    Nurses understand people
    Nurses have empathy for your patients
    Nurses need compassion and love

    I have read so much on these forums, about heartache and bullying and cuts and all the pain that goes with Nursing these days. A lot has me crying at the way you are treated. I am proud of you and I love you.

    I would be honoured if you, a Nurse would look after me if I needed you.


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  • "You don't know what you don't know" means sometimes people who don't have a degree don't understand what it means to become enlightened, educated, and emboldened. Sometimes, they even think having a degree and life experience are the same thing! Fortunately, Linda Aiken and some others are doing great research into the benefits to patients of nurses with degrees and certifications.

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  • As someone who trained in the old system and subsequently gained a degree and masters, it is also important to make the distinction between having an education and degree. They are not necessarily the same thing. And let's not be so hasty to devalue life experience. Scoff about it at your peril. It is all about balance. Any education, certificate, degree or whatever you want to call it, is only as good as the content. It doesn't follow that earning your degree leaves you " enlightened, educated, and emboldened". It is all about balance.

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  • As a nurse for close to 40 years I have never stopped learning. As a student nurse in the 'apprentice' model days through many modules , a first degree and masters I continue to learn from every experience. The key is to appreciate sometime we don't know what we don't know, the evidence may have changed making me unconsciously incompetent or I may be having a bad day and more exposed to human error.

    Attending education events does not equate to learning. It is how you critically appraise the content and what you do with the resulting learning to change practise that matters and makes a difference to patient care and the professional standing of nurses. Sadly too many nurses (and managers) still equate attendance with learning. Lets do away with tick box education events and ensure all education is a learning experience. Then we will really start to see the benefit.

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  • “True wisdom is knowing what you don't know”

    ? Confucius

    "... "I know that I know nothing"

    or "I know one thing: that I know nothing"

    (Greek: ?? ??da ?t? ??d?? ??da hèn oîda ?ti oudèn oîda;

    Latin: scio me nihil scire or scio me nescire),

    sometimes called the Socratic paradox..."

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  • from Anonymous | 18-Sep-2013 4:07 pm

    as I suspected, NT don't do the elegant Greek letters. Sorry about that, I thought it was worth a try.

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  • Anonymous | 18-Sep-2013 4:07 pm

    I hope that someone so lacking in knowledge isn't currently nursing any sick folk! It could get a bit icky.

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  • Some interesting comments. I am just embarking on a nursing course. I need to be a nurse. The only way to do that, is to complete a nursing degree. I don't have a choice. I have one degree already, and have been on the planet long enough to know that a degree education changes how one sees and reacts to a given situation. This is true for degree educated nurses too. The process of doing the job stands a better chance of being done well if the reason for doing the job is understood and applied. It is simple logic, really. So stop knocking us for having to get a degree to do what we want and need to do - be nurses.

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  • Anonymous | 18-Sep-2013 6:05 pm

    it would be even more of a concern that somebody was nursing who did not understand the significance of the wisdom of Confucius and Socrates.

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