In the spirit of positive thinking, our resident American nurse Sara Morgan explains why she loves being a nurse in the UK.
As spring seems to be (finally) arriving here in Britain, I thought that it was time for some unbridled optimism and good vibes all around. I have also noted the recurrent feedback from some of my readers that I spend more of my time mentioning areas where nursing in the UK is slightly frustrating to those of us from beyond Britain’s shores, than areas where British nursing truly excels. So, in the spirit of spring and positive thinking, I present my (American style) Top Five list of the best things about nursing in the UK:
Yeah, pins - as in those from your school of nursing. It is absolutely fantastic that nurses here take such pride in where they went to school. I’ve seen nurses who are total strangers and have clearly not been in nursing school for several decades strike up conversations as soon as they see each other’s pins and realise that they went to the same nursing school. When I graduated from nursing school, we were each given a pin and a lecture about how they represented the history of nursing, in much the same way that caps and capes had. Did any of us ever wear them? No. And when I moved here to the UK and finally had the opportunity to do so, I realised that my pin was lost. So I’ll send out my thanks (again) to the administrator back at my nursing school who was kind enough to send me a replacement.
2. Universal registration
There are not many things that I appreciate about the NMC, but the single register for all UK nurses is an organizational triumph. In the US, each state has its own Board of Nursing , so if a nurse moves from Texas to Florida, she has to get a new nursing license in Florida. And each state (all 50 of them) has different paperwork and different fees that need to be paid. Here in the UK, if I get tired of London and move to Cornwall, I don’t have to switch my NMC registration along with the address that my council tax is sent to.
3. Patients are more appreciative in the UK
Or maybe, because they don’t have to pay cash for their healthcare, they instead try to pay for it in chocolates and biscuits. I could live for days on the amount of food that is available on wards, although my uniform would cease to fit quite quickly. Gifts from patients are much less common in the US, although I am certain that they are no less appreciative of nurses’ efforts (even though I have no way to prove this by any average-sweets-per-patient calculation).
4. (Essentially) free nursing education
My pre-registration nursing education cost roughly $60,000. This did not include any living expenses and there are no bursaries in the US. I do not dare predict when these student loans will be paid off—an entirely too depressing exercise.
5. Universal healthcare
All of our patients in the UK have access to comprehensive care, ranging from preventative primary care to acute care to end of life care. Does that care differ slightly by postcode? Perhaps, but 99% of the care that we nurses provide is equally available to everyone. Patients may have to wait sometimes and they may not have the newest, shiniest facilities, but no one is denied the basic human right of health care. They may not always choose to use that care appropriately, but that is their decision to make, not ours. And the NHS, for all of its flaws, bureaucracies and inefficiencies, delivers a vital service to the UK that should be envied by Americans and all nationalities that have not yet developed their own national system for healthcare delivery. Although, based on the successful vote for healthcare reform in the US Congress on March 21, it seems as though the US has finally decided to follow the lead of the UK and provide care for all.