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Patient advocate hits out at all-graduate profession plans

  • 15 Comments

A leading patient advocate has said she is against plans for nursing in England to become an all-graduate profession.

The change, due to be completed by 2013, will move the profession even further away from providing compassion and dignity in care, according to the Patients Association director and former nurse Katherine Murphy.

Writing in The Times, Ms Murphy said the introduction of nursing degrees in the first place had “sent out all the wrong messages, as it has become more important to write about care than to give it”.

“These new proposals make the situation worse,” she added.

Ms Murphy said: “Since the introduction of Project 2000, which shifted training from the bedside to the classroom, nurses have lifted their eyes to the personal prizes of nurse specialisms and been allowed to ignore the needs of their sick, vulnerable and often elderly patients. Some no longer want to provide those basics.

“How can you begin to teach people how to treat patients with dignity and compassion in an academic setting,” she said.

  • 15 Comments

Readers' comments (15)

  • I think many potentially good nurses are going to be deterred from entering the profession.

    Common sense and communication skills are pre requisites for nurse training not A levels.

    Learn to be a nurse then study at degree level to consolidate your experience if you so wish.

    To make degree level study mandatory is ludicrous and may well instigate a major staffing shortage.

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  • I suppose I'm a 'specialist' nurse as I'm a Memory Nurse. The patients and families I see seem on the whole to be happy with the service I and my colleagues provide, and would be left unhelped if the service disappeared. Also, I don't think nurses going to university to study explains discovered lack of care on wards; rather it is a shortage of appropriate staff on the wards as a result of funding constraints

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  • one of the main issues that seems to have been totally ignored by the so-called 'experts' telling us this is what nurses want is that the mature students without the necessary entry criteria (unless of course that will be 'dumbed down to allow entry!!) will not be ALLOWED into the profession. and by the way where are the 200+ x twice a year cohorts of students wanting to do a nursing degree going to come from?

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  • I may be speaking out of turn but is it such a bad thing?
    I am a first year degree student nurse in Scotland, as well as being in my 40's. There are lots of students of a similar age range in my cohort, so I don't see that the degree has put older people off.
    I do find it strange though that a knowledge of a biological science isn't an entry requirement.

    I think the degree stipulation is just a sign of a profession that is evolving. Given some of the highly specialised/technical roles nurses are performing, nurse education has to keep up.
    I do think that there is a dilemma within the profession as to what it means to be a nurse. I wonder if this needs to be resolved or will time take care of it.

    Given that I worked in worked in hospital admin before entering training, I see HCA's/CSW's doing the hands on tasks, that some perceive as traditional nursing activities.
    As a student I expect my first couple of placements to be heavily involved in doing this. However as I progress through the course I do expect for this to decrease with my time spent learning about the theory and practice of the more technical procedures.
    There has also been a culture shift within the UK towards tertiary/graduate education and this is just another reflection of that.

    I look forward to working with and caring for patients and know that in a few years time I will probably be commenting on how nurse training isn't meeting the needs of the patients.

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  • lesley_frater@hotmail.com

    There has been much comment in the press and on nursing websites regarding
    nursing becoming a degree only profession by 2013! Much of the comment is
    anti-degree which I feel is a gut reaction to change. As a nurse who trained at
    the age of 42 and who entered the profession as a Diploma nurse, then did a
    Degree, a Masters and thinking of doing a PhD. I really get annoyed when I hear
    other nurses and the general public indicating that nursing should not be a
    graduate profession. When did I last hear the same comment about medicine -
    never - or physiotherapy - never - so why does nursing generate such negative
    feelings. There is a plethora of evidence about the benefits arising from a
    well-educated workforce; one that impacts significantly on patient outcomes and
    patient safety. I am pleased that England is at last joining Wales and Scotland
    (and I think NI) who have been educating nurses at graduate level for many
    years. Members of the public have commented in the press and fear this move -
    they should think about who they want to care for them - I know who I would
    rather have and that is a knowledgeable practitioner; i.e a registered nurse who
    can use available evidence to best meet the needs of his or her patients, and
    care for them to a very high standard. For those nurses who fear change -
    consultation on educational changes or other consultations are on the NMC
    website as well as the DoH website, why have you not put forward your opinions
    where it will count?

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  • Malcolm Chalk BA, RN

    I think you have almost got it right (anonymous 13th Nov 9:41am). The profession 'is' evolving and we certainly learn far more as a university based profession than from the old nursing schools. Of course you build up your practical skills over the years the same as most jobs, but the difference now is the academic skills we can use as part of our nursing toolkit. Unfortunately over the last two decades Thatcherism took the wind out of the sails of an understanding of workers rights, equality, and what really is fair pay, this nievity often reflects on potential and newly qualified nurses. We all need to push a lot harder for respect and recognition of our practical as much as our cognitive skills. I think we are all starting to realise that nurses are the new junior doctors and our pay should be on a par with theirs. We must not do ourselves down, academia is the keystone to professional nursing and eventual parity with the medics.

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  • Comments which indicate opposition to degree level training for all nurses seem to forget one important factor. That nursing is a full-fledged profession. Not a vocation. Who are the 'potentially good nurses', and who are the potentially bad nurses? I think it is dangerous to assume that someone will make a good professional nurse before the person has undergone professional training.

    Most professions have set their entries at degree level. Entry into the nursing profession should not be a default choice. It should be well considered and chosen above all others, not because it is the easiest to get into, but because it is the one you would most proudly identify yourself with. There should be no question in your mind about its parity with, or superiority to other professions. If you cannot gain entry into nursing training at degree level when it commences, you probably do not want it badly enough. As a general rule, value tends to be inversely proportional to ease of attainment. This filters through to the employers, clients and employees (in this case, nurses). As we clamour for higher pay and professional respect, a degree level entry qualification will serve us in good stead.

    And by the way who says that a little scarcity of qualified nurses is bad for the profession? When the employers and other professionals realise how hard it is to become a nurse, they will treat nurses better and nurses will value themselves more.

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  • From Anon above...
    "If you cannot gain entry into nursing training at degree level when it commences, you probably do not want it badly enough."....

    I could not disagree more with this statement. There are colleagues on my course (I'm a 3rd year qualifying in March) who have the common sense, drive to learn and acquired knowledge which others actually seem to lack, but are not naturally strong with academic work, struggle in exam situations and I am certain would be excluded from qualification by the advent of degree only entry - to the great detriment of patient care in my opinion.

    While I agree that only those capable of living up to the growing standards expected of nurses should be allowed to qualify, I'm not entirely sure degree only entry is the way to go about that. After all, if every future nurse intends to be at the forefront of this newly-technical nurseforce, what will happen to those of us (and I hear them all around me) who want just to qualify and then stay at grass-roots level? It seems to me they will face ever growing barriers thanks to the drive to progress everyone on regardless of their wishes.

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  • By commencing nursing and enrolling on a degree level, the message given out is that one needs to be a high flyer and be on parr with the doctors.
    As a mentor, I have had years of experience with students who are now coming into nursing with the idea of specialising and being "up" there with the doctors
    What ABOUT THE BASIC NURSING CARE, THE EMPHATHY, THE TALKING WITH THE PATIENTS" i WILL TELL YOU WHAT. It has gone out of the window.

    LETS GET BACK TO THE BASICS FIRST AND LET THE PATIENTS BE TREATED WITH EMPATHY, CARE AND UNDERSTANDING.


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  • I totally agreed with this last statement. Sense at last. I have worked as a health care support worker for many years am presently studying through the OU for my nursing diploma and have witnessed many changes over the years. A lot of regularly trained nurses at degree level that I have worked with seem to display an aloofness which is no good for the patients or their colleagues. They are so full of their own importance they are incapable of basic nursing care or patient empathy. In my opinion there are far too many bodies running about with clip boards jotting down how things should get done. What is needed is more bodies on the wards etc with their sleeves rolled up helping provide a better service. There is no substitute for hands on care. No university degree can teach that. When it comes right down to it nursing is now and will always be the caring profession. Patients need to feel cared for.

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