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Student takes on UKIP over claim 'nurses don't train on wards'


A student has defended the introduction of compulsory undergraduate education for nurses, after a member of the UK Independence Party claimed nurses should not be trained at university.

Speaking as part of a debate on the BBC’s Question Time last night, Louise Bours, UKIP’s health spokeswoman and MEP for the North West of England, said that instead of going to university nurses should learn their profession on hospital wards.

She claimed many people would prefer the option of becoming a state enrolled nurse (SEN) – offered through a qualification introduced in the 1940s but phased out during the 1990s after the restructuring of nurse education under Project 2000.

“I don’t believe nurses should be at university. I believe nurses should be trained on the ward,” she said.

“What we have in theory is very good to put into practice on the wards because without that we’re going in blind”

Amy Tunicliffe

However, Ms Bours was corrected by student nurse in the audience, Amy Tunicliffe, who pointed out that nurses do in fact learn in clinical settings by completing placements as part of their university programme.

“I am trained on a ward, we all are,” said Ms Tunicliffe, to a round of applause from the Question Time audience in Sheffield.

“What we have in theory is very good to put into practice on the wards because without that we’re going in blind. You need that theory to put it into practice,” she added.

However, Ms Bours refused to accept the student’s point, appearing to talk over her on several occasions.

She claimed that student nurses had written to her about the issue. “The number of letters I have from student nurses who say…what they wanted was what we had before – the SEN – they wanted to work towards that qualification on the wards and that has been taken away from them,” she said.

“There are going to be some like yourself who have the qualifications to get into university…But not all people are like that”

Louise Bours

Addressing Ms Tunicliffe, she said: “There are going to be some people like yourself who have the qualifications to get into university, and will be highly skilled nurse. But not all people are like that.”

Speaking at a later point on the BBC show, shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna showed support for degree-level nurse training.

“If you want to go to university as a nurse, I want you to go to university as a nurse,” he told Ms Tunicliffe.

The comments on student nursing were initially sparked by a debate on the government’s budget announcement from earlier this week, which stated maintenance grants for less wealthy students – worth around £3,300 – would be removed and replaced with loans.

Ms Tunicliffe had asked the panel: “Is the scrapping of the maintenance grant for students the death knell for social mobility in the UK for this generation?”

In answering the question, Ms Bours had then changed the topic to whether nurses should be trained at university.

The stand-off between Ms Tunicliffe and Ms Bours led to strong words from nurses on the social media site twitter.

Question Time

Student nurse Amy Tunicliffe


Readers' comments (32)

  • Just goes to show politicians have no idea what is going on in the NHS-why can they not admit that instead of being rude to people who are in a position to put them right??

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  • Having just arrived home from a very busy shift on an Orthopaedic ward, with 2nd year nursing students to mentor, I totally agree that the majority of nurse training should be performed on the wards of a "real life " hospital.
    The students, themselves, also agreed that their preference would be to bring back "hospital " based training in order to obtain a better " hands on" approach to patient care and needs.
    I am writing from Australia.
    How sad that these students have never experienced giving of an injection or the removal of a wound drain until today.

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  • It has always been known that learning on the job is far better than sitting at a desk being lectured to. The only trouble now is if we went back to wardbased learning there are not the trained staff to be able to teach. Young trained nurses are not prepared with practical skills only written work. I know this from firsthand experience and now thankfully have retired.

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  • I agree with bringing back ward based training for nurses. This modern day nursing is not equipping nurses fully. I trained in this modern day nursing, I really envy old school nurses and nurses who trained overseas as they know their nursing inside out, as they had intense training and were working like nurses when they were students. Its sad when you hear a nurse who has been qualified for 10 years who has only worked in one ward like elderly medicine say to you I don't know what to do with this surgical patient that you have brought to us???

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  • Errr... wut... My first placement was on a Ward, current one is Community.

    Does everyone else just nap on placement? I throw myself in there, get stuck in, dunno something? Look it up in my BNF or google.

    GOOGLE... new nurses have the ultimate tool of knowledge right there (Behind other trained Nurses) You can easily spend 2 hours a night reading up on Wound Care or other things... really is no excuse. Might lack practical but as long as you know the theory you'll be ok.

    However, yes there should be other routes into Nursing and certainly there are HCA's who are very good at their Jobs who should be allowed internally to become Nurses.

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  • Yet again the comments from within my own profession sadden me.

    There are good and the not so good in every profession and that includes nursing.

    The vast majority of nursing is now happening outside of wards - and increasingly more is moving to the community.

    Nurses need critical thinking skills, management and leadership skills, a wealth of clinical skills and sound theoretical frameworks to base it on.

    We are evolving as a profession and adapting to the increasingly complex environment within which care is delivered, be that a hospital, a clinical or someone's own home.

    Why do so many nurses believe we should return to the good old days. Those were the days of egg whites for wounds, wheel chairs that were locked backwards at an angles to stop people moving, the days when patients could smoke in the day room, or when we locked women up in mental hospitals because they got pregnant out of wedlock.

    Do we really want the good old days back!!!

    Get a grip, the worlds moved on and nursing has moved on with it.

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  • I qualified in 2001 as a mature student having undergone a 3 year university based programme with ward placements throughout.
    During my training I spent a lot of time learning basic care tasks which are the main stay of any nurse education. However during my time training I also felt as though my higher education needs were ignored on the wards
    I had never worked in a healthcare environment before so did not have the experience of some of my fellow student nurses who worked as healthcare assistants to boost their inadequate student bursaries.
    By the time I entered training I had been married for 18yrs and had 2 children in secondary school. I had managed to study for GCSEs and an A level while running a home and holding down various P/T jobs but still I did not have the confidence to challenge my mentors or some experienced healthcare assistants (sisters pets) who pretty much 'ruled' some of the wards.
    I remember only too well how unprepared I felt for those first months as a qualified nurse and although I received good preceptorship at my new hospital it took a good 18mths -2 years rotating across 4 clinical areas as a qualified nurse until my confidence began to emerge and I felt like I could take off the L plates off.
    On hindsight I wish my training had been a lot more ward based with eg 2 days in university and 3 days on the ward to put theory into practice.
    I am still a band 5 and happy to stay that way because although I have had ample opportunity to go higher I feel I would have to sacrifice my patient contact to concentrate on managerial tasks and have seen some of my colleagues of similar age who have gone to band 6 then decided it was not for them and dropped back to band 5.
    I have also seen younger nurses emerge from training starting on wards aiming to get as high as they can in the shortest possible time and quite a few show very little interest in 'hands on' patient care preferring to 'delegate' these tasks to healthcare, while they may have up to date theory they do not have the experience to put it to practice and that is a sad indictment of the modern training.

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  • Anon 10/7 09:35. I think you're on your own here! The vast majority of nursing is happening outside of wards!!!! What a vacuous and ridiculous statement-of course it isn't. Don't insult your fellow nurses by quoting egg white nonsense,you obviously have much to learn so I can only wish you well in doing so.

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  • New v old once again, there needs to be a balance. I trained as an SEN in 1973, and converted in 1989. I consider myself so lucky to have experienced both. Strangely, perhaps, I never lost my practical head after converting, but both experiences have given me theory and practicality which made me feel complete as a nurse, often thinking 'outside the box' - sorry for that bit of jargon! I also feel the experience of life adds to my approach to individual patients, be it in hospital or at home

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  • I can not believe that nurses want to return to hospital based nursing only. The profession is evolving from a tradies position of OJT to higher education and TAFE education. I have seen different areas of patient care improve because of the increased responsibility of the Registered Nurse and improved education. Have you ever stopped to look at the medical drs education, and when they first come onto the wards? It is more to the point to mentor and support new graduates, especially those who suffer from lack of self confidence and culture shock. From Australia

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