The move to degree-only entry to nursing is unlikely to affects nurses’ “ability or desire to care with compassion”, according to interim findings from an expert group set up by the Royal College of Nursing.
The Willis Commission on Nursing Education was launched in April. It is looking at how best to deliver pre-registration nurse education in order to provide a nursing workforce fit for future health and social care services in the UK.
It released a statement this week setting out its interim findings, based on a review of recent research, written submissions to the commission, and three days of interviews with expert witnesses.
The commission said the move to degree-level registration of “all nurses in the UK does not appear to affect their ability or desire to care with compassion as well as expertise”.
The minimum academic level for pre-registration nursing education in England will be a degree from September 2013. This will bring England into line with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The commission said a key theme emerging from its review was the “need to dispel the myth” that better educated nurses are less able to care, and to promote an accurate public image of nursing education.
“With all pre-registration nursing education in the UK moving to degree level, the commission has seen no evidence to support the view that graduate nurses are ‘too posh to wash’,” it said.
However, the commission also noted that health service employers and universities needed to work in closer partnership “to ensure that nursing students are better prepared and supported in their practice learning experiences”.
Another “key emerging theme”, it said, was the shape of the future nursing workforce. It said a national clinical nursing structure was needed to provide clarity about the future roles and responsibilities of graduate nurses, in the context of the multidisciplinary health and social care team.
“This links closely with concerns about the lack of regulation, consistent standards and training for healthcare support workers, who play an increasingly important part in delivering care,” the commission noted.
The commission’s final report is due to be published by the end of 2012.
It is chaired by former head teacher Lord Willis of Knaresborough, and has seven other members.
These include Subo Shanmuganathan, head of learning and development at Macmillan Cancer Support, Margaret Smith dean of the school of nursing and midwifery at Dundee University, and Veronica Snow, programme lead for the Wales Palliative Care Implementation Board.
“The public needs to know what it can expect of registered nurses, and what degree-level registration means,” said Lord Willis.
“We need to get the emphasis right and select candidates who have all the qualities that good nurses need, working with head, hands and heart. And we need to make sure we have good patient and public involvement in the development, delivery and review of nursing education.”