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All new nurses must have degrees


The government has rubber-stamped plans for nursing in England to become a degree-only profession

The decision by the Department of Health follows the Nursing and Midwifery Council ratification of proposals to make nursing in England an all-graduate profession in September 2008.

Speaking this morning on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, chief nursing officer for England Dame Christine Beasley said the change was a “small but important step” that would help give nurses the “real ability to think and make decisions” as care became more complex. “It’s not about moving nurses away from direct care,” she added.

During the same programme, UNISON head of nursing Gail Adams reiterated the union’s concerns that the move to degree only entry would lead to a narrowing of the diversity of backgrounds nurses currently came from and, as a result, mean the profession was less reflective of the society it cared for.

However, the Royal College of Nursing welcomed the move. RCN chief executive Peter Carter said: “This is an important and historic development, which the RCN has supported for many years.”

Health minister Ann Keen said: “Nurses are the largest single profession within the health service, and are critical to the delivery of high quality health care. Degree-level education will provide new nurses with the decision-making skills they need to make high-level judgements in the transformed NHS.”

“This is the right direction of travel if we are to fulfil our ambition to provide higher-quality care for all,” she added.


Should nursing be a degree-only profession?

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Readers' comments (114)

  • I think this is a great idea. Individual nurses and the professional as a whole can only benefit. A degree-only profession gives us more credibility, and it will make it much harder for doctors, managers etc to restrict nurses' development

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  • I really disagree with this. I feel that 'criteria' will exclude potentially fantastic nurses from being able to care for patients. Nursing is a practical 'hands on' profession and degree led courses focus 'too much' and academia. Most nursing practise has been doctor led without problem. Through my experience, doctors tend to have quite poor communication skills and it is usually left upon the nurse to allow the patient to understand. In increasing the entry requirement for uni, I too believe will 'lead to a narrowing of the diversity of backgrounds nurses currently came from and, as a result, mean the profession was less reflective of the society it cared for'. I know some fantastic Diploma, enrolled nurses who are not only a credit to their profession, but would put many degree qualified nurses to shame with their excellent practise. Widening participation within nursing leads to increased empathy across practise, a fundamental quality needed.

    A worried nurse - (degree level if it makes may point more valid).

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  • NHS is not a business

    Dame Christine Beasley states that this level qualification would give nurses 'the real ability to think and make decisions'. She may find that nurses currently do make these decisions on a daily basis - degree or diploma or enrolled.

    If she is stating this because there is a plan to give nurses more autonomy - but only if you have a degree - I fear it will fail in its aim and only assist in driving wedges between staff, creating more tiers in the future (not registered, registered and super registered).

    I agree with Craig's points about too much academia and the abilty for the nurse to translate medical jargon and prognosis into real life meanings being essential.

    A degree for higher grades yes; or achieved as an optional extra, if you didnt do it first, is the way to go.

    I don't believe the medics would be happy to give too much to the nurses unless it was technical - IVs, IVABx, cannulas, ECGs etc.

    Docs will always have the decision making ability and nurses will follow - until the maternal/paternal balance is achieved.

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  • I agree with Craig and Mike. We are missing a wealth of inviduals who unless they can afford to go to university to obtain a degree will not be able to become nurses.
    If l had orginally obtained a degree before i started nursing l certainly wouldn't be nursing now. Who wants to work crap hours, low wages and staff shortages, low chance of a higher grade, when they have a degree.
    A friend of mine is actually training at present and will come out with a nursing degree and very minimal patient contact.
    Remember Project 2000?

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  • As a tutor in a sixth form college who is also an RGN I think this is going to lead to some excellent young people who would make great nurses, being barred from the profession. Many students whom I teach would make great nurses but don't necessarily have the academic ability to gain a place on a degree programme. The Diploma route has always been an option that is welcomed by young people and enables somre really dedicated students to get to university and achieve their ambition of becoming a nurse.

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  • So now we just await news on the funding issue...

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  • There are three integral elements to ensuring we have equipped the effective Nurse for the future. The degreee programme will help to ensure that they have the necessary knowledge and application of this knowledge for critical thinking and decision making purposes. The other two important attributes are the dexterious practical skills that are required and the emotional intelligence for them to practice at a much higher level.

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  • I support those that have commented that a whole wealth of potentially excellent nurses will be left out in the cold by this decision.

    I would have been one of them.

    As a specialist cardiothoracic nurse with over 23 years experience I worked my way from EN to RGN to ENB 249 and now a Diploma in Health service management and a BSc in Nursing practice at 48, through the RCN.

    I am a bit dissapointed that I would have missed being allowed into a profession I feel is my vocation and would not give up no matter how bad things got.

    I learnt along the way and my time spent at the lower qualified levels of nursing I know has has made me a better nurse with an expanse of knowledge and experience that I would not have otherwise acheived.

    Whilst I do agree we should aim for degree Level I think entry into nursing only at that point will do nursing a disservice.

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    Although some people will not have the academic qualifications to enter nursing when it becomes a degree only profession, this unfortunately is a given and the only way to go if we want to be seen as a true profession not a vocational career! Change always causes concern from those who trained in a different manner. UK nurse education lagging behind other countries regarding degree nursing. It is important that this 4 year nursing degree course includes anatomy, physiology and prepares nurses not just for the wards but for the generic roles that are currently being planned. It is time to look forward and stop looking backward through rose-tinted glasses at the good old days, which incidentally was very medical model with nurses seen as doctors handmaidens, is that what you really want to return to?

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  • Lesley Frater has put it so well I do not need to add anything. Time we went forward!

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