Over the years I have seen the nursing profession deal with some enormous challenges, including seismic changes in nurse education, the eradication of an entire level of the profession and countless media storms – both justified and not.
For the most part, when the chips are down, nurses roll up their sleeves and get to work. Their morale may suffer, stress levels may rise and they may have a moan among themselves, but they generally handle whatever is thrown at them without kicking up too much of a fuss – at least not publicly.
However, the mood of the profession seems different as it absorbs the implications of Patients First and Foremost, the government response to the Francis report. I’ve seen far more openly expressed anger – from nurses at every level of the profession. And little wonder.
No other profession has faced the implication that it has been accepting the wrong people, with aspiring nurses facing a year’s work on the lowest salary rung as HCAs before three years of study. And exactly who did the government consult about this proposal? The entire nursing community appeared to be in the dark until the response was published.
Nursing competes to attract the brightest and the best – it wants people who have other options rather than those with nowhere else to go. While income is unlikely to be the primary motivator for most, the prospect of an additional year of financial hardship is likely to deter many excellent candidates from a nursing career. For people contemplating a career change or a return to work after having a family, that extra year could be simply unaffordable. And don’t get me started on how this flood of one-year-only HCAs will affect the wider nursing and HCA workforce – it’s too horrific.
I believe the profession has been insulted and shouldn’t simply accept its lot with weary resignation. Can you imagine doctors taking this on the chin? I can’t. So go on - get angry. Let the government know what you think of this insulting proposal.