Registered nurses are queuing up to take degrees amid fears that the move to an all-graduate workforce could leave them unqualified to secure jobs or be effective mentors.
But many trusts are increasingly unable to meet the demand for degree course funding, Nursing Times has been told.
Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals Trust board minutes reveal there is a “significant waiting list” for qualified nurses keen to complete a degree course.
The trust’s deputy chief nurse Linda Pascall told Nursing Times said the fact that entry to the profession would be restricted to graduates from 2013 had made other nurses question how well they would mentor students.
The trust has launched a bespoke “fast track” six month nursing degree with Wolverhampton University, from where the first cohort has just graduated.
The trust is sponsoring the studies of band six and seven nurses, in batches of 15 at a time. They must have at least 120 continuing professional development credits.
One recent participant who started in the NHS as a cleaner before moving into nursing, had learned to “become a critical thinker and be more self aware,” Ms Pascall said.
She said there were already two further batches of nurses waiting to take the degree course, of which one will start in February.
But Royal College of Nursing education advisor Gill Robertson said nurses in many parts of the country were being denied access to degree courses.
She said: “It’s not unusual to have huge waiting lists. Nurses are very anxious that newly qualified nurses will come out with a degree and potentially overtake them in the job market.
“But [funds shortages] mean they’re often having to commit to it in their own time and with their own money.
“We need to be able to skill up those have gone before to the same level as those coming out now,” she added.