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Don't let them eat cake, do let them have degrees


Beyond the Bedpan is pining for less sensitive times, and the all-graduate debate takes another unexpected turn

Such sensitive times we live in. What with students quibbling over a mere £10,000 worth of personal debt, the government cracking down on nurses calling in sick, and hospitals getting their wrists slapped just for letting a few too many patients die, there isn’t much going on that someone, somewhere isn’t outraged about.

But the management at Royston Hospital in Herts have really taken the biscuit, not to mention the cake.

Every year for the past 24 years, the charitable souls at Royston Runners club have organised a festive 10k run. Instead of an entry fee, runners are required to bake a cake. The cakes are then auctioned off with the proceeds, and any remaining cakes, going to Royston hospital.

But this year, the long arm of health and safety rejected the baked goodies, presumably due to fears of a fatal food fight breaking out among staff, or a comely young lady leaping out of a cake and sending male patients’ heart rates into dangerous territory.

Refusing to give up, the philanthropic joggers called for back up in the form of the League of Friends of Royston Hospital, who promptly persuaded the hospital to change it’s ridiculous stance.

Degree divisions

The all-graduate profession debate refuses to die. Since last week’s column noted nurses’ near universal opposition to the move, readers have delivered a blow to Beyond the Bedpan’s reputation as barometer of national opinion - by coming out in favour of the move.

“An experienced nurse educated to degree level generally knocks spots off an experienced nurse without any academic qualifications. Academic achievement and safe compassionate care are not mutually exclusive.” writes Una Adderly.

Says Ellen Nicholson: “I would like to see nursing being more supportive over its own development, rather than comments about why we shouldn’t change. We have much to be proud of in nursing, lets celebrate it and move into the future.”

And finally, the most damning critic of the degree-deniers chooses to remain anonymous, probably for the best: “You don’t want to be doctors’ handmaidens, you want more specialist nurses, yet you think that nurses shouldn’t have a degree! Get a grip.”


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Readers' comments (18)

  • I have worked with nurses who are degree level trained that have no idea how to look after a patient, and i have also looked after diploma level trained nurses are fantastic! Having degree does not automatically mean that you will make a good nurse. I am a diploma trained nurse and i feel that i am just as capable in my job as any degree trained nurse!

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  • So if we get rid of all the nurses without degrees, will there be anyone left to look after the patients!

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  • I have a BSc Hons Degree in Nursing - it has made no difference to my pay or opportunities in the workplace

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  • The degree course is not different enough from the diploma! do people honestly believe it makes any difference to a persons ability to be compassionate? it should take a little more to squeeze all the personal skills out of a budding nurse!

    Maybe the nurses used to highlight the argument against degrees would be better in another profession if they have a degree or not.

    It seems that nurses fear degree only nurses coming up through the ranks and over ruling their practice etc which is not bore out by reality (or an evidence base if you like).

    I want nursing to be taken seriously and this is a good first step. I reject the theory that degrees make no difference. A degree only profession will have more control over its destiny and will make it a more coveted career.

    I would say however that a more selective, stringent interview method for entry onto nursing courses is needed. A degree or diploma is irrelevant if your not giving it to people with appropriate "life experience" or people skills as niether degrees or diplomas in nursing imbue people with these.

    I often heard when I was an H.C.A that nurses dislike change, maybe there is an emerging body of evidence for this? I may write my dissertation on that very subject!

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  • Like many mature students, I entered nursing via the diploma route after 16 years working as an HCA because of financial implications - the diploma offered a bursary and my family were dependent on my income - it is as simple as that. I am now working for my degree via further training at uni - have done Mentorship and now doing Respiratory.
    Since most student nurses these days are of the mature variety, I am most surprised that the powers that be think that they will continue to get enough applicants if it goes to an all degree entry.
    I agree with a previous point - degree or diploma, applicants need to be better interviewed, the drop out rate on my course was about 40% and most of those were obvious from day 1. The quality of students that I am now mentoring doesn't seem to have changed at all!

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  • To degree or not degree,that is the question??
    Arguably with the diversity and challenge of registered nurses in the current NHS,an academic mindset is going to prove relevant in questioning best practise,moving forward developements set at national,regional level,using an analytical approach in audits,teaching new staff,students,de-coding complex research protocol for patients on clinical trials,etc etc.
    However it wont teach,instinct,empathy or an ability to cope with pressure when you are the only trained on duty with bank/agency staff,very sick patients,phone going and a doctors round etc.
    Just being able to have/do a degree doesn't make a nurse.There has to be a best practise method at selection before the training starts.
    Instead of hospitals being absent at this stage,they should be actively involved,right at the beginning.It is as if these are two separate entities.
    Maybe if this were the case course drop out rates would not be as high as in some cases 40%.
    Ok everyone hates reminicing about "the good old days" there were things from my training days that i would not like to see again for love nor money.
    However what there was from my training at a school of nursing 1979!!! was a sense of belonging and pride in the hospital i was attached to.
    Also i feel the supernummary status should stop at year 3.This would help prepare for the real pressures of wards work,the reality.
    Another preparation strategy before "university training" but as part of the course could be a 6month stint as an auxiliary/support worker,non suppernummary,to learn basic skills (i met a 2nd year student nurse who did not know how to take a temperature!),interact with patients,relatives,other staff members as team member as part of a ward.They could get sense of everyday pressures and this would im sure stand in good stead.
    It would also assess if they were really suited to nursing,maybe it would save a waste of time and money on high drop out rates.
    At the end of their 6months they would have a written assessment for their porfolio, and more importantly ....insight.
    I also feel that Nhs trusts should be committment to supporting newly qualified nurses and provide employment for one year,(after all its not untill you've passed your driving test,that you learn how to drive!) Too many newly qualified have to fight for a trained post,really unprofessional and implicitly shameful way to treat our staff of the future.
    Enough of my ranting!!!
    A Staff Nurse of 30 years,trained at Sussex Downs Schools of Nursing,work in acute hospital trust still!! No degree.

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  • i am concerned at what i am reading in this article. i do not believe that opinion was against nurses getting degrees but was against nursing requiring a degree at entry as the experience is needed to validate the education.

    i think more opportunity should be given to qualified nurses who can tailor their academic interest to their professional interests and skills, while a diploma or even apprentice level entry will give bright non-academics a way into a profession that they can develop in over time

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  • Yes, non-degree nurses can be just as good (or better) than those with degrees. But the reality is that they are never going to be viewed as serious professionals who command a serious salary unless they have one. Just look at how well the US nurse practitioners & CNSs are thought of and paid!

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  • Having qualified as a nurse with a diploma, I have since completed a degree in nursing. I feel that many capable canidates for nursing will be dismissed from even entering the profession because they can't get on to a degree programme, as higher academic qualifications needed to join. Having a degree has made me a better nurse but I don't think that would have been the case when I qualified, experience and continued professional development has achieved this. Do we need to return to a two tiered system?

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  • I am still haunted by the training days , where I felt bullied and made thought I was not going to pass my last mentorship. I was told after the fact, by my mentor, that he had to be tough with me, but today, he doesn't know how it affected it me mentally , that fact that some mornings when for example, he did not say good morning to me, still haunts me and other memories of my training days. The experience for me and the most experiences I had with my instructors, were too tough, and today because of it, I do not want to work in a hospital. I opted for my diploma because I did not want to bullied anymore and believe just because a person is sensitive, they have to be molded into something different. Now I know, its better to be sensitive , to be as empathic as one can to a patient's reality, But today, I want to get my degree to have more opportunites to reach a PHD level so I could research and publish my experiences and or to reach more goals that I thought I could not reach just because I was too sensitive.

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