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'Nurses are wizards of service improvements'


The Wizard of Oz is one of my favourite films.

And it occurs to me that nurses possess all three of the things that Dorothy’s companions seek in the Emerald City - a heart, a brain and courage. (They also probably feel like there’s no place like home at the end of a shift). But many people continue to think having a brain is a dangerous asset for a nurse.

Last week, I got to see just how important intelligence is to nursing on a visit to Kent and Canterbury Hospital. I was impressed by the nursing team’s creativity in improving quality and safety. One theatre nurse has become the country’s only nurse patient-side assistant - a role usually carried out by a registrar. It involves her being the eyes and ears of the surgeon as he operates remotely using a Da Vinci robot. Other nurses overhauled their stroke unit by introducing their own version of intentional rounding, patient groups and nutrition strategies.

Deputy chief nurse Steve Hams, who invited me to visit, said the hospital also runs quarterly “After Dragons’ Den” sessions, where he, the financial director and associate medical director interview staff who have an innovative idea. Staff are grilled about the return on investment and sustainability of the idea - but if it passes muster, the FD can sign off up to £50k of investment on the spot, with bigger investments being passed for further approval.

Nurses are challenging traditional roles, saving money and enhancing outcomes, and it is their brains and hearts that are needed to achieve this. If I was unwell, I wouldn’t want a tin hand holding mine at the bedside, but I also wouldn’t want someone with straw for brains doing my observations either. We shouldn’t need to debate it. Nurses need both compassion and intelligence - and the courage to argue their merits.

See the full-length account of my visit at

Follow me on Twitter @nursingtimesed


Mark Radcliffe is taking over a guest spot live on at 1pm on Wednesday. Join him and other nurses to discuss the value of emotional intelligence.


Readers' comments (3)

  • Finally someone admits it - nurses need to be educated, intelligent beings. I am fed up of people thinking nursing is unskilled and we are unqualified handmaidens to the 'clever doctors'.

    Going degree only can only help boost our professional image too.

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  • @Anonymous | 2-Nov-2011 6:29 pm

    i've met plenty of stupid people with degrees, and plenty of clever people without. if you're a nurse who wants to do, say, research, fine, get a degree and you can analyse varience to your hearts content. and, if you have new knowledge to add to nursing, submit your thesis, pass your viva and hey presto, you're a doctor. not a physician who passes two bachelor degrees and is awarded the honourary title of doctor, but a real one, a proper doctor of nursing. but the only people who will be impressed by nursing becoming an all degree profession will be those who do not understand the nature of academic awards.

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  • michael stone

    Anonymous | 7-Nov-2011 1:51 pm

    mike and I debate this area endlessly, it seems.

    I agree with you, about 'the people who do not understand the nature of academic awards' (or, perhaps, the significance of them).

    Lots of nurse with masters degrees, might earn 'nursing' more (academic) respect.

    But as I have said elsewhere, it seems more nurses are now carrying out and publishing research - I do suspect, that nurse-led research, which were widely adopted and improved the NHS's performance, would get more of the 'respect' nurses seem to crave.

    I wish people would drop this 'honourary title of doctor' stuff - it is pointless 'argument' !

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