Tarnia Taverner looks at the differences between nursing in the UK and Canada, starting with the impact of an all graduate profession.
In the summer of 2009 I relocated to Vancouver BC, Canada with my family to take up the position of assistant professor in the School of Nursing at the University of British Columbia.
Vancouver is a wonderful city and driving into work is a pleasure rather than a chore, compared to driving to work in London its a breeze. My view on the way to work consists of mountains in front of me and the sea to my left.
So how did I go from my basic nurse training to working as assistant professor at the University of British Columbia?
I entered a registered general nursing program in the UK quiet a few years ago, at a small nursing school in the south of England. I had always wanted to be a nurse and have never regretted that decision. I thoroughly enjoyed my nurse training but at the time did think it should have been more academically informed. After many years as a clinical nurse working in many different areas, predominantly as a nurse specialist in pain management but also as a matron for a primary care trust, I chose the path of academia. I believe my clinical background will make me a better educator and researcher.
Nursing as a career has given me so much opportunity in so many ways. As far as I’m concerned nursing is a privilege, we should never take our work for granted and we should always be aware of the positive impact our work has on society. As nurses we enable the basics of human needs such as dignity, nutrition, hygiene, comfort and health maintenance. The basics of nursing should underpin everything we do as professionals. Without considering the basic needs of our patients’ we neglect the human principles of health and essentially life. Nursing is unique it requires us to become involved with people and assist people at their most venerable. Wherever we are in the world nursing will form a part of that society, nursing as a profession is essential to the health and success of any society. After all a society should be judged on how it cares for its most venerable citizens.
The nursing program at the University of British Columbia has been in place since 1919 and UBC was the first university in the British Empire to offer a nursing degree. It’s a popular course; we had over 400 applicants for 120 places this year.
What I find interesting is that no matter where you do nursing in the Western world, the same issues arise. Nursing shortages, health care cuts, waiting lists, etc…
One difference between nursing in the UK and nursing in Canada is the requirement that all nurses new to the profession enter with a nursing degree. The degree issue is particularly pertinent because the UK is moving into an all degree prepared profession. I believe this to be a positive move and one that I would support. However, it’s a difficult one; some of the best nurses I’ve had the pleasure to work with did not hold degrees. Having a degree does not necessarily make you a better nurse. However, it may make you better informed and would certainly address the issue of understanding evidence based nursing, which is crucial to all nursing professionals. Furthermore, as a degree prepared profession it gives the profession more kudos and equality amongst other healthcare professions.
This is very obvious when I observe nursing in Canada, they appear to have more respect as a profession and this is demonstrated by their pay and employment conditions. However, in some areas they don’t appear to have as much autonomy as we do in the UK, this is evident with regard to nurse prescribing and having to adhere to “doctor’s orders”.
Working in Canada is a wonderful experience for me, it has presented some challenges particularly with regard to the process of immigration. I am certainly “form fatigued”. Furthermore, one may assume same language, same culture, but this is not the case. Canadians may speak English but the culture is at times, worlds away from the UK culture. But then what is the UK culture, we are a mass of different cultures, very similar to British Columbia in-fact. Although as British citizens we share a love of chicken tikka massala and the great British comedy. Thank goodness for DVDs that’s all I can say, what would I do without my weekly dose of British comedy?
About the author
Tarnia Taverner is an assistant professor at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver.