Have you ever been into a guitar shop? Horrible experience. Staffed by people who love guitars but don’t actually like music. Or people.
I went in recently to buy a present for someone and it was like entering a small country populated by hairy, unsmiling, virginal men smelling of dust who were only capable of communicating via guitar solos. I asked for some banjo music. “What sort of banjo?” they asked as they played something unnecessary by Eric Clapton. “How many sorts are there?” I asked. And instantly I was lost.
“First find out how many strings it has,” piped up a skinny lad in the corner. “No,” snorted a pimply hippy, “first make sure it’s a banjo”. And they went back to twiddling earnestly in an otherwise empty shop. And I thought, “I’ve just been patronised by some 35 year old hobbits who still live with their parents. I’ll buy it online.”
‘To be a teacher or a shop manager you need a degree. Is qualifying as a nurse less worthy than other jobs of the merit ascribed to a degree?’
It can be the same in any shop run by people who love what they are selling so much, they don’t want to sell it. DIY shops for example - the sort that are run by men who say “Sir is clear about the difference between a screw and a nail isn’t sir?” or “Sir might be surprised to find out that, yes, wood does actually grow on trees, which is why we have quite a lot of it.” Patronising people. Just a little misanthropic, just a little sneery. Which inevitably brings me to the Conservative party.
Don’t you think it’s just an incy bit patronising when a politician hungry for the votes of nurses says “you know what, you don’t need a degree, it’s something you can aspire to but you don’t need one”? Adding with a smile that you wouldn’t want to hurt your pretty little head with too much thinking. And then he sort of pats you, offers you a toffee and suggests you run along and do some folding, you little scamp.
While there are still some nurses who are a bit suspicious of degree education - either because it may exclude potentially good nurses or because they imagine, in a confused way, that thinking skilfully is counterproductive to nursing - there’s no getting away from the fact that being told that nurses can only aspire to something all the other health professions take for granted demeans nursing.
To be a teacher, a social worker or a shop manager you need a degree. Is nursing easier than those jobs? Or to put it another way - is qualifying as a nurse less worthy than other jobs of the merit and significance ascribed to a degree? And if it is, will it consequently deserve less pay? Will it deserve less respect?
People can complain about degree education for nurses all they like but in doing so they are denigrating the social value of the nurse’s role and that might just help politicians disinvest in both nurses and nursing. Argue about what goes into a degree all you like, argue about how we can make degrees worthy of nursing. But the profession is shooting itself in the foot if it lets anyone tell it that nursing is not worthy of graduate status.