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End the turf war to lighten our load

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VOL: 97, ISSUE: 35, PAGE NO: 27

Ami David, MSc RGN RM DN DNT RNT

The nursing news is still dominated by the thorny issue of recruiting from abroad, and trusts across the country are still sending senior staff to scour developing countries. But foreign recruitment is a short-term solution to a festering longer-term problem.

The nursing news is still dominated by the thorny issue of recruiting from abroad, and trusts across the country are still sending senior staff to scour developing countries. But foreign recruitment is a short-term solution to a festering longer-term problem.

We have two options: either we continue to use the sticking plaster in the hope that the crisis will abate, or we take a long hard look at ourselves and the precious way in which we protect our turf.

The profession is faced with an ageing workforce and inadequate recruitment. But nurses are also being asked to take on new roles that push traditional boundaries to the limit and beyond. This has given us an opportunity to demonstrate our capabilities. Nurse prescribing, NHS Direct and nurse consultants are just a few exciting developments.

But we have met with much resistance, particularly from medical colleagues. It would seem that no amount of evidence of preparation for these new roles will convince die-hard clinicians of the need to share their professional turf.

But nurses are also guilty of perpetuating turf wars. There is still fierce resistance to using the skills of others, such as health care assistants and nursery nurses. Surely training such assistants and ensuring that their work is led and monitored by nurses is one way to lessen our load?

We appear to resist such changes because we see them as a challenge to our professional status, coupled with fears that standards of care may be compromised. The role of assistants has been more readily embraced in acute settings, but this is not always the case in community and midwifery services. This is partly because of an inability to let go.

Quality of care must be our priority. But if the truth be told, patients are more concerned about the care they receive than about who delivers it. Skills must be enhanced across the board. Whether that means taking on roles previously the remit of doctors or welcoming assistants into our fold, we need to take action, both individually and as a profession.

Of course we need to ensure that the appropriate investment is made, not only in training and rewarding the enhancement of skills but also in monitoring and reviewing performance. The idea that health care assistants should be regulated by the same body as other professionals must be welcomed.

We must also stop being precious about our domain and instead celebrate our emancipation by encouraging others to work alongside us in delivering care in a different way. Creative and radical thinking is vital if we are to really tackle the long-term shortfall in the workforce. Foreign recruitment will only result in an international merry-go-round and will not solve the problem.

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