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Exclusive: Pay and PhD requirements 'stopping' nurses entering academia

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Senior nurses are not considering a career in academia because they will get better pay working for the NHS, according to a leading nursing professor.

Brian Webster-Henderson, chair of the Council of Deans of Health, said high entry requirements such as needing a PhD were also stopping nurses from stepping into higher education.

“People are not as attracted maybe as they once were to come into higher education”

Brian Webster-Henderson

In a bid to get a better idea of the current state of the academic health workforce, the council, which acts as a voice for UK university faculties for nursing, midwifery and allied health professions, has this week launched a staffing census.

Professor Webster-Henderson told Nursing Times that the aim of the survey was to find out about the “academic health of our departments” because this information was not available elsewhere.

“We are well aware that we are in an age where people might be close to retirement,” he said.

“People are not as attracted maybe as they once were to come into higher education, partly because the salaries in the NHS at senior level are higher than you would get in a university,” Professor Webster-Henderson said. 

“We know that some of our members are challenged at times by trying to get people in and as universities change shape we know the entry requirements for academic staff into university might not meet where they might be coming from,” he added. “For example, some universities require all staff to have a doctorate before they come into the university – well in our disciplines that might be quite hard to achieve in some areas.”

“We need academic staff who are absolutely switched into current practice challenges”

Brian Webster-Henderson

Professor Webster-Henderson, who is pro vice chancellor for health at the University of Cumbria and a mental health and adult nurse, recognised that with the current staffing challenges the NHS needed to keep hold of as many top nurses as possible. 

However, he added that there were plenty of opportunities for clinicians to work “fluidly across practice and academia”.

Explaining why he supported nurses working in both healthcare and education, Professor Webster-Henderson said: “Because it’s good for student experience, it’s up to date and it’s contemporary.

Council of Deans of Health

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Brian Webster-Henderson

“We need academic staff who are absolutely switched into current practice challenges, and that can come in different ways through lecturer practitioners, through some arrangement of joint appointment, or through full-time members of staff,” he told Nursing Times

Professor Webster-Henderson said the buoyancy of the clinical academic workforce varied across the UK and that was another reason for launching the census – to establish where was struggling and where was doing well.

The survey was launched at the Council of Deans’ annual conference yesterday and has been sent directly to its members. It will be live until May and then the council will take some time to analyse the results.

“We will aim to feed that back to our members and help use that to shape conversations where they be around policy, recruitment, or how we inform some of the work we do,” Professor Webster-Henderson said.

  • 3 Comments

Readers' comments (3)

  • I have always self-funded my courses. The only one which I did not pay was the diploma which I did in 1998. One day a senior nurse from the Phillipines told me that I am stupid to pay for my courses in nursing and that I am still a band 5. She said she never paid for any courses and has always been funded by the trust and even her being much younger than me, I am under her hierarchy. Up to now, I am still studying and paying my courses with my credit card. The amount spent on nursing education has amounted to £10,940 and that is only on tuition fees, excluding other expenses and at the moment jobless.

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  • Looks like you spent 10K for nothing.

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  • Yes, and I do not think I have been very wise

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