We must all stand together and fight as nurses.
That was the battle cry from nurse and former MP Ann Keen at last week’s Queen’s Nursing Institute’s annual conference. She was issuing a plea to galvanise nurses in a fight to protect the training budgets for continuing professional development.
One of the speakers, Dame Jessica Corner, chair of the Council of Deans of Health and pro-vice chancellor for research and knowledge exchange at the University of Nottingham, protested that in some places budgets for post-registration nurse training had been slashed by almost half (read the story here).
Ms Keen was outraged but said that it was up to nurses to make the case for why this was such a travesty. She argued that, when there are care scandals, it is frequently nurses who are blamed for them – and yet the government is busy cutting the funds that would maintain the clinical skills that are needed to ensure the profession maintains its safe practice. Ms Keen called on the chief nursing officer for England Jane Cummings to stand up and make a case for the importance of maintaining these budgets, and urged nurses to fight for it behind her.
She is so right. This, to my mind, is a battle that is definitely worth fighting. It seems to me that, in some quarters, senior leaders are more bothered about whether the new nursing associate role has the word “nursing” or “nurse” in the title. And whether the Nursing and Midwifery Council should regulate it or that should be someone else’s job. Frankly, there are much bigger fish to fry.
While I do have some sympathy for the nuances of language and the mechanics of regulation, and how such things might confuse the general public, let’s be honest: some of these arguments may well be a bit too sophisticated for the average patient lying in a hospital bed or sitting at home waiting for the nurse to visit. These patients want skilled, well-trained professional practitioners to care for them; the chances are they don’t much mind too much about the name on the badge or really understand the ins and outs of the organisation that sets their standards.
So isn’t Ann right? Shouldn’t we be fighting the bigger fight? Because it seems that the real attack on nursing’s standing and skills is coming up on us from behind by stealth – and we are all distracted by the debate about the nursing associate role.