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Do we need to keep debating what nursing is?

  • Comments (6)

Last week we hosted our first ever Directors’ of Nursing Congress. This exclusive event aimed to give chief nurses a platform to discuss topical nursing issues, to identify where changes could be made and learn from each other to improve healthcare for both staff and patients.

Many of the conversations that came out of the congress weren’t on the programme. The open floor style discussions meant that delegates were able to share their own opinions and ask questions, rather than simply listen and be told what they should be doing.

One of the more heated discussions came about when a speaker asked “What is nursing?” Delegates didn’t debate the question, but why it is still being asked.

One responder argued that other disciplines don’t feel the need to debate what their profession is, and that this debate prevents us from moving forward as a profession. We’re stuck in this circle of justifying the role of nurses.

However, while it’s fair to assume that those inside the profession know exactly what it is, what about understanding outside the profession, whether that’s other health professionals or the general public?

An upcoming clinical article (due in 11 November 2015 issue) discusses how the “traditional” role of nurses has evolved to incorporate what the author describes as “organisational work”.

The article describes the findings from a large-scale study that found 70% of nursing time is spent on this type of work. It argues that other people often see this as a distraction from patient care, but that this assumption comes from a misunderstanding of what nurses really do.

Nurses don’t just provide direct patient care, they are the glue that holds the system together, ensuring everyone involved in a patient’s care knows their role and what the patient needs.

The profession doesn’t need to define its role. However, maybe it does need to find a way of articulating it so that when nurses are sitting at a computer at the nurses’ station, people don’t automatically assume they aren’t doing their job.

  • Comments (6)

Readers' comments (6)

  • Anonymous

    If the profession does need to define its role, it also needs to include the work carried out by each branch of nursing across many different settings, not just NHS hospitals.

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  • Anonymous

    "...while it’s fair to assume that those inside the profession know exactly what it is, what about understanding outside the profession, whether that’s other health professionals or the general public?"

    You omitted the most important entities from that list: NHSE, the Department of Health and the Secretary of State for Health. It's obvious that none of them understand "what nursing is" since they are busy trying to redefine "nursing" so they can declare an end to the shortage without having spent any money.

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  • Anonymous

    I don't agree that we don't need to define what nursing is and I'm not convinced that those in the profession know exactly what nursing is or isn't. Nursing has changed hugely and is now incredibly diverse, besides that to presume a commonality of understanding is, I would suggest, a not insignificant part of the problem.
    I do agree that govt has an underlying agenda driven by financial ideology and an objection in principle to public service with respect to the current govt but I would suggest that when nursing becomes clearer in itself about what the profession now is and has a grounded, well founded professional self esteem rather than a defensive offence then we, the public and govt, will know the power of nurses together and the how and what we do that matters.

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  • Anonymous

    Nursing is constantly being redefined at every level and it is our duty to keep right up to date.

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  • Anonymous

    It is also the duty of the employer to provide that up to date training. I wonder what a quick poll would demonstrate of those actually receiving that.

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  • Anonymous

    A nurse is a nurse is a nurse........ fundamentally caring, questioning, leading, training and learning, sharing, innovating.....the list goes on and on. Nursing in the modern healthcare service is very different to our predecessors roles and responsibilities. Sadly because we are a 'caring' profession we are deemed less value than other professional careers.....especially in the media, and by government. The answer is to value ourselves and our colleagues and to keep pushing for improvements and one day things will be better. I know I am a nurse, I understand my role and my responsibilities to my patients and my profession, others may have lost their way and not know what 'nurse is or means' but I know exactly the direction I am headed.

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