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Giving all nurses a voice

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Jayne Parker knows it is crucial to speak out about issues affecting students and newly qualifieds and urges others to represent their peers

Newly qualified theatre nurse Jayne Parker started her career writing control systems software for buildings and machinery. She spent the first two decades of her working life in front of a PC, before giving it up to train to become a nurse in 2009.

It may have been a difficult transition moving from behind the computer screen to behind the hospital screen, but she says it’s not as hard as the move from student to fully fledged qualified nurse.

“The day you start working, you don’t know any more than you did the Friday before, but the badge says ‘staff nurse’ not ‘student nurse’ and everyone around you assumes that overnight, you’ve learned all the stuff that you are supposed to do,” she says.

But Ms Parker is used to handling the people and politics, having been a Royal College of Nursing studentrepresentative for the South East throughout most of her training at Brighton University.

Representing students was, she says, her passion. She explains that she was fascinated by the Willis Commission into nurse education and getting delegates to really understand standards have not dropped. She found it “tremendously exciting” promoting and developing student issues at a national level.

“Pushing the student nurse education debate to the fore was my goal,” she says. “We still hear the ‘too posh to wash’ and ‘too clever to care’ arguments, and that really irritates me. People say nurses shouldn’t be degree qualified. Well that is just rubbish.”

Ms Parker says that it is “demoralising” to hear more experienced nurses say that training was better in their day.

“It is important to push these opinions - and make sure they are heard at national level,” says Ms Parker. “I hope we have changed people’s minds with evidence-based practice.”

She has also led debates at the RCN Congress about preceptorship and mentorship, which she believes shouldn’t be an adjunct but fully established as part of a nurse’s role instead. But it’s not just a philanthropic motivation. She also advocates that other students get involved in union work or other activities external to their course because there’s no way of knowing where it can take you.

Through that RCN work Ms Parker was offered a place on the Nursing and Care Quality Forum, which mainly comprised directors of nursing and executive-level nurses.

“You get a whole different view - how policies come out, and why the Department of Health was interested in the Friends and Family Test. It has provided a great insight into how things work within the DH,” she says.

“To be part of it made me proud,” she says. “I got to go to number 10, and debated with the former health secretary Andrew Lansley. I represented students on this group, and now I represent newly qualified working nurses at the bottom of the pile, who need representation. We need a loud voice.”

Ms Parker is now working with the group to help formulate the government’s response to the Francis report’s recommendations and how they may be implemented.

Her involvement in the NCQF saw her given the opportunity to judge the Student Nursing Times Awards this year and last year. And she scooped her own award upon graduation earlier this year - the University of Brighton’s School of Nursing and Midwifery Award for Excellence.

She says that student nurses should get stuck in and do something, as well as getting involved with local communities, trusts,, universities or the RCN.

“It helps you to explore some of the wider picture. Without doubt, it has helped me to understand some of the issues that directors of nursing are facing and it made me a much more empathic and better nurse.”

Jenni Middleton

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