When exactly did nurses get too big for their boots and too important to perform “basic” nursing tasks?
That was the question posed time and time again by journalists last week after the government announced its pilot scheme to make every wannabe nurse do a year’s experience as a healthcare assistant before starting their degrees.
I don’t know any students who consider themselves above helping a patient eat or taking them to the toilet. They all know that’s part of nursing, and assisting a patient with these tasks is one of the things that motivated them to nurse.
But the government has led the media to believe that nurse education is to blame.
I agree with the notion of getting as much practical hands-on care as possible - but I am unconvinced by this scheme.
It could potentially deter applicants who are less aff uent from applying for a nursing degree, and it may distract nurses from supervising students, undermining their training and ironically reducing the quality of hands-on experience that nurses-to-be get.
It also sends out a message to the public that nursing is about a set of “basic tasks” that any untrained person can carry out. I take issue with the concept of “basic” care. Helping patients to eat or washing them and using the opportunity to observe them are fundamental aspects of nursing. They are also complex clinical tasks that require skill - as well as compassion. If people believe that such tasks are “basic” or “easy”, they will undervalue nursing even more.
On top of this, by emphasising the “basic” care, or “essential” care as we prefer to call it, the scheme suggests that clinical knowledge is not necessary for nursing.
But this plan isn’t just bad for those entering the profession, I fail to see how it will actually improve patient care.
Robert Francis QC wanted to introduce HCA regulation, something the government has steered away from. But if unregulated workers are an issue, why have more of them caring for patients?
Can trusts afford to offer placements to vast numbers of pre-student intakes, train them, supervise them, coach them and then just have them leave - only to have to repeat the process year in year out?
Why aren’t doctors and others being asked to spend time “proving” their commitment to their jobs?
This feels like a test for nurses to prove they are worthy of their jobs. The implication is that it’s needed because nursing has failed, when we all know, that’s not really what is wrong with the health service.
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