The days of nurses being a handmaiden to doctors are long gone. That role would be almost unrecognisable to nurses graduating now.
Nursing and Midwifery Council registrants are diagnosing, prescribing, treating and helping patients manage their own conditions – as well as keeping people well and preventing ill-health. When leaders of services debate what’s needed for service users, the nurse is always central to those conversations. Nurses are pivotal in any care setting.
In March, the NMC revealed its final changes to the Future Nurse Standards – which will dictate how nurses will practise in the future. The contentious proposals to allow nurses to apply for a prescribing course as soon as they receive their PIN – instead of notching up a few years in practice first – have not been brushed aside.
Nurses must demonstrate they are competent to add this prescribing qualification to their portfolio of skills, but it’s clear the NMC feels that more of the future workforce will need to have prescribing powers – currently only 10% of the register do. The pre-registration courses taken by nurses will include more drug theory to support this change.
Considering drug errors are one of the biggest reasons for fitness to practise referrals to the NMC (along with record-keeping), increasing the support for this in degree courses is sensible.
More comprehensive details of the future nurse standards discussed at last week’s NMC council meeting are at nursingtimes.net, but also worthy of note is the regulator’s position on allowing students to notch up practice hours in simulation.
Some believe it could be safer to teach students through simulation. This is a valid point, but this is an area where I feel the availability of placements is dictating the standards. There are so few placements where students can safely train and be supernumerary, I suspect simulation is less risky.
Individual universities need to decide how many hours a student can do in simulation and a live care setting. But they must defend the invaluable hours of training students get – and not allow simulation to take over as the main means of training.
Nursing requires expertise and a lot of knowledge, but ultimately it’s practising it with real patients and service users that really creates and supports those skills.