I sat next to a nurse at dinner this week, and he told me that he was extremely positive about the profession. I haven’t heard that for a while, so I asked him why.
He said that things were changing and that they had to because there was no option but to alter what we are doing in healthcare and how we are providing it.
His point was that when change is afoot, nurses are flexible workers and adaptable thinkers, and they are ideally positioned to lead change and take command.
He is probably right. Adaptability, flexibility and a can-do attitude are something that you find in spades in the profession. But I wonder whether sometimes nurses’ ability to just get on and do the right thing sometimes leads the public – and other professions – to think that’s all the job is about – making do and mending.
Take the letter written to The Telegraph this weekend by Robert Jackson, a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons.
Mr Jackson argued that his long-held belief that nurses should not have degrees had been vindicated by what he described as the “demise of the traditional hands-on compassionate nurse”.
Ironically, it seems his years of medical training and toil in the theatre have eroded his compassion for his fellow hard-working colleagues in nursing.
I’ve heard views like his from politicians – mainly due to the fact that they want the route into nursing to take less time to resolve their workforce challenges. I’ve also heard it from some in the national media and from the public. But I don’t expect to hear it from someone senior in healthcare who knows just how much skill and expertise it takes to become a nurse and practise safely as one.
Where does this view come from that adding qualifications to a CV means you turn into Lady Macbeth? It just isn’t true.
I’m glad to see that Dr Ruth May, executive nursing director at NHS Improvement, has joined many of her colleagues to criticise Mr Jackson’s extremely dated view.
“Perhaps some members of other professions still need to recognise that it’s time for them to change”
She is right to point out that nurses are no longer the handmaiden of doctors, and are there to work collaboratively with other healthcare professionals – providing skill, expertise and care to support the patient. The high level of education and training of a graduate registered nurse undoubtedly make patients safer – there is undeniable evidence on that front. For Mr Jackson to ignore this is bizarre.
So yes, that nurse I sat next to is right. Nurses are adaptable and able to change – they now diagnose, prescribe, treat and provide compassionate care.
But perhaps some members of other professions still need to recognise that it’s time for them to change and adapt too – and recognise just what nursing is now, and what it can do today and in the future.