At the Nursing Times Deputies’ Congress last week, the most popular speakers were the directors of nursing we’d invited because they tell it how it is.
They are honest about the fact that it’s a tough job, that you will sometimes have to take bullets for the medical director, that often you’re a lone voice on the board standing up for quality and safety (and, in many cases, if you are female, you may be the only woman on the board).
The feedback about these speakers from our deputy directors of nursing was glowing because they were so candid. There was no whitewashing, no trying to pretend that everything in the garden smells of roses – they were, as one delegate put it, “real”.
So let’s get real. The bursary is being removed because universities can’t survive in the current funding model and the government doesn’t want to pay more. Will adding competition improve the standard of education? Possibly. Will adding debt put off some talented would-be nurses – particularly those who want to enter nurse education as mature students? Undoubtedly.
The chief nurse of Heart of England Foundation Trust Sam Foster also spoke at the Deputies’ Congress. She revealed that in meetings about the new nursing associate role or the bursary, she has often been the only nurse present.
These things happen to nursing rather than with nursing because often nurses aren’t confident enough to step up and make their voices heard. Ms Foster encouraged nurses to do just this – to stand up and help shape the changing landscape.
I would agree with her that nurses need to find their voice, but it must be honest. Nurses shouldn’t trot out the political spin – their values mean they must at all times be truthful.
I understand that directors of nursing who can’t recruit registered nurses want – and need – the nursing associate role. But after fighting for an all-graduate profession, it feels a bit bizarre to create a new route into nursing without admitting that the reason behind it is cost. Nursing associates are a means of creating a cheaper nursing workforce that’s trained and regulated so that, in the scheme of things, they are better than the average healthcare assistant but not as skilled as the registered nurse.
But no one will admit that. And isn’t that, well just a little bit dishonest?