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Reasons to value the graduate nurse

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There has been much debate recently about the role of nurses, and whether nursing being a graduate profession has led to a lack of compassion in the nursing workforce.

The Shelford Chief Nurses represent 10 acute teaching trusts and, along with colleagues across the NHS, work closely with graduate nurses and see the hugely significant role they play in supporting a world-class, compassionate health service – especially at a time of huge pressures on the NHS and its workforce.

Some commentators have been asking if studying to degree level is necessary for a registered nurse. We must remember that before degree-level nursing was implemented, nurses were required to graduate at diploma level before registering with the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

The move to degree level education was only a relatively small change to nurse training.

Graduate nurses are key to responding to a fast-changing health environment – including the needs of an ageing population with growing acuity and dependency, and the many advances in treatment and technology.

At a time where more nurses are leaving the register than joining, we must ensure that our current graduates and those thinking of joining the profession know that nursing is an attractive career with many opportunities to develop and play a central role in how we continue to deliver high-quality, compassionate care.

The investment made through recruiting and retaining graduate nurses has a positive effect on patient care.

And many graduates progress to higher-level studies contributing further to the body of nursing knowledge leading to improvements in patient experience, treatment and care.

As the NHS workforce evolves and the nature of clinical education changes, nurses are increasingly rising to the challenge to take on extended and advanced roles pushing the boundaries of practice and changing the face of the modern healthcare workforce.

Graduate nurses play an important role in leading these changes and are well prepared to fulfil many of these additional responsibilities, some of which have become part of the everyday practice of nurses (such as prescribing).

Nurses are one of the few health professionals that work across the 24-hour continuum in all healthcare settings providing critical clinical decision-making, transforming the way in which care is delivered and transforming lives.

As such, we have developed our top 10 reasons to value the graduate nurse.

Reasons to value graduate nurses

  • Graduate nurses reduce avoidable deaths;
  • A graduate nurse’s level of knowledge and skill ensures they are well placed to be accountable for patients’ increasingly complex physical, physiological and social care needs;
  • A nursing degree ensures graduates have equity with other health professionals, enabling effective patient advocacy within the multidisciplinary team;
  • Graduate nurses use critical thinking skills to be able to integrate a wide knowledge base into everyday decision-making;.
  • Graduate nursing has a diversity of career options and opportunities, with increased likelihood of individuals staying in the profession. It is also the base level to progress to enhanced and advanced practice as part of transforming the workforce to meet patient need;
  • Graduate nurses help to improve patient care at the bedside by bringing relevant evidence into practice and through co-designing care with patients and their families;
  • Graduate nurses provide positive returns on investment for the NHS. Their higher level of knowledge and skills enables them to be an integral part of strategies to deliver higher quality of care, and reduce length of stay and re-admissions;
  • Graduate nurses are research literate, able to appraise research, and increase the translation of research to practice – thereby strengthening the evidence base for practice, and improving outcomes;
  • A nursing degree provides graduates with the skills and knowledge to undertake complex assessment, planning and care delivery, making them crucial to delivering more compassionate and clinically effective care;
  • A nursing degree provides graduates with the ability to analyse population health data, and build their skills to plan the services, care and education programmes to cater for changing population needs.

The Shelford Group Chief Nurses represent 10 of the leading NHS multi-specialty academic healthcare centres in England. 


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