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We know the true value of nursing

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This Christmas it will be five months since I became chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing – and what a five months it has been.

There have been highs and lows in equal measure.

Royal College of Nursing

Janet Davies

A high was seeing our campaigning efforts pay off when nursing was temporarily placed on the shortage occupation list. We made it our mission to show just how detrimental the new immigration rules forcing thousands of valuable overseas nurses out of the country – and our health system – were.

This wouldn’t have been possible without the action and support of our members, and shows the real difference nurses can make.

Another campaigning success – after years of fighting for the recognition that nurses require access to continuing professional development and to have their practice recognised – was to get a start date for revalidation.

We all need to embrace this – we can all do it.

”Undoubtedly a recent low was the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement in which he announced the loss of the student bursary”

These were some of the highs but undoubtedly a recent low was the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement in which he announced the loss of the student bursary. Many people from all social backgrounds and walks of life rely on the bursary in order to join this fantastic profession of ours and the RCN is certain that anything that makes people worse off or deters them from becoming nurses, will be a big loss to our society.

Student nurses are not like other students. They spend half their time doing clinical work and because their academic year is so long they have little opportunity to earn money in their spare time. They also tend to be older, with families to support.

Replacing bursaries with hefty loans will pile on more financial pressure to an already overstretched part of our health care workforce. And it’s not even as if money will be saved in the long run as many will be unable to pay the loans back fully. This makes little financial sense.

”There is already clear evidence that the Government’s decision is having a negative impact”

There is already clear evidence that the Government’s decision is having a negative impact on those who have been thinking about a career in nursing.

Hundreds of current nursing students and those who were thinking about studying to be a nurse have contacted us to share their concerns, frustrations and dismay.

The Chancellor’s move is a huge blow to our future students but the campaign has started. Now is the time to get involved.

Nurses can clearly make a difference when it comes to campaigning but their impact doesn’t end there – it can be seen in hospitals, communities and care settings across the country, and a particular perk of my new role is the opportunity to see them in action.

”I still continue to be bowled over by the dedication of nursing staff”

I’ve been a nurse for more years than I care to remember but I still continue to be bowled over by the dedication of nursing staff who deliver care 24 hours a day and yes, seven days a week.

We should be celebrating these successes every day as well as at fantastic events like the Nursing Times Awards. This year I had another opportunity to hear nurses’ stories and find out about the incredible work going on to improve patient care and innovate nursing practice. Nurses are some of the hardest working people this country’s got and no one is more deserving of the celebration.

Here at the RCN we’re gearing up for a rather special celebration in 2016 – our centenary – a hundred years of supporting nurses and developing our profession and our practice.

”Nurses are some of the hardest working people this country’s got and no one is more deserving of the celebration”

As we move into our centenary year, my greatest wish is that some good old common sense is brought into our healthcare system. We are not asking for much. All nursing staff want is the time and the resources to care for patients to the absolute best of their ability – and to be valued for their efforts.

Year round, you give the gift of compassionate care to so many. And whether you are at work or at home, I would like to wish every member of the nursing workforce a very merry Christmas.

Janet Davies, chief executive and general secretary, Royal College of Nursing

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