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Nursing student Michael Stephens discusses the nature of nursing

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VOL: 98, ISSUE: 39, PAGE NO: 33

Michael Stephens, BA, is a first-year nursing student at the University of Northumbria and a member of NT's Nurses' Plan panel

One only has to browse through recent editions of Nursing Times to see that there is debate about the skills and knowledge of today's nursing students and newly qualified staff.

One only has to browse through recent editions of Nursing Times to see that there is debate about the skills and knowledge of today's nursing students and newly qualified staff.

Much criticism centres on what is seen as the overly academic nature of contemporary nurse education. Many detractors remember the halcyon days when young girls were taught to care 'properly'. Sister was to be feared and the pecking order was rigid and strictly enforced.

If we are to believe what we are told they were great days for the art of nursing. But perhaps they were not so great for the recognition of nursing as a respected, autonomous profession with a voice and the right to determine its fate.

Nursing is an art, but it is also a science. What needs to be acknowledged is that if we are to provide the best care for our patients, both aspects of nursing must be accepted, respected and learnt.

Students need colleagues who have patience with them, and give them the time and guidance they need to develop the art of nursing. Newly qualified nurses and students also need to know that their knowledge and ability in the science of nursing is respected, valued and accepted. As students we may still be developing the art of nursing, but we often excel in the science.

NT recognises and respects the potential for students to make a real contribution and the article on last offices is written by a student (p36). If today's nursing students have the confidence, skills and professionalism to make this sort of contribution and ask questions at such an early stage in their professional development, what will they be able to achieve in their careers?

Students who have the confidence to stand up and be recognised as valuable team members, and are capable of contributing something valuable, will benefit the profession. This enthusiasm and drive should be encouraged.

All confident, competent practitioners should welcome change and feedback from nursing students, just as we should accept advice, encouragement and teaching from our peers and from qualified staff. We should embrace all those who can help us to develop our art while understanding the need for science.

We can also learn from our patients and from each other. We need to have positive, unconditional regard for our patients, our colleagues and ourselves. We can become a nursing team: if we respect and nurture each other, imagine the rewards for our profession and, more importantly, for our patients.

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