Last year, after nine years of working as a staff nurse and deputy sister within acute medicine, I moved into teaching at a large university.
I had always loved mentoring and teaching students and felt that this was where my strengths lay. However, I’ve found the move from frontline nursing to teaching both challenging and thought provoking.
The challenges ranged from being accustomed to a much more autonomous role to learning different systems and expectations as well as having much less direct patient contact. However, one area I found particularly challenging was seeing students that were struggling with the academic work but who I felt had the attributes to make good, compassionate nurses.
I felt that the NHS needed as many nurses as possible and questioned, as many do, whether nurses needed a degree at all? I felt a tension about this and sometimes viewed academic competence as less important than being able to work as a staff nurse in the “real world”.
“I saw how nursing as a degree is now on the same level as other subjects”
But it was attending my first graduation and seeing how proud the students were and how nursing as a degree is now on the same level as other subjects that was a turning point for me.
Many students do struggle with the academic expectations but with the right support and encouragement, most are able to achieve their degree and get a huge sense of satisfaction from this. I do not observe that the students I teach lack the basic attributes of compassion and care and in fact they show great resilience by managing the demands of a degree alongside placement.
In a rapidly changing healthcare environment the degree equips nurses with skills to think, innovate and manage for the future of nursing.
“There are thousands who despite having a diploma have wanted to develop and gain a degree”
To those who do not believe a degree makes a good nurse and a diploma is adequate, I would say this is true for many but there are thousands who despite having a diploma have wanted to develop and gain a degree. For those who are still sceptical, there is also clear research evidence that has found that the more nurses with bachelors degrees that work in an environment, the better the patient outcomes (Aitken et al, 2014).
For people who are keen to enter the nursing profession but will be unable to meet the academic demands of a degree there is now the opportunity to become a nursing associate. Although the role is at a lower grade than registered nurses, and this is an issue in itself, they at least will not have to pay tuition fees and pay back loans like the graduate nurses will from September.
“I take a great deal of pride in teaching and supporting student nurses to work at degree level”
After a year in my new role, I take a great deal of pride in teaching and supporting student nurses to work at degree level. I am still concerned about staffing levels in the NHS and therefore make it my priority to equip my students for a career in nursing that they will be committed to and resilient enough to manage.
Kate Simpson, Teaching Associate (Adult field), School of Health Sciences, University of Nottingham
Aitken, L. et al (2014) Nurse staffing and education and hospital mortality in nine European countries: a retrospective observational study. The Lancet, Vol. 383, No. 9931, p1824-1830