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Experienced nurses flocking to scarce degree courses


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.


Readers' comments (29)

  • "we need to be able to skill up those have gone before" - having a degree does not mean you are more skilled or knowledgeable than someone who has had over 20 years experience and has kept their professional development up to date. A piece of paper does not an expert make!

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  • I quite agree Louise. Whilst I am currently undertaking my top up degree distance learning, I do not agree with using any terminaology that suggests that diploma nurses are underskilled - after all there is a huge amount of on the job learning and life lessons to take into account

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  • michael stone

    I am being a bit cheeky to comment on this one, but I do not like the idea of excelelnt nurses who have learned on the job, and proved and expanded their capabilites over many years, being regarded de facto as less capable than newly-qualified graduate nurses. It does of course depend to an extent on how good people are at learning skills, and understanding concepts, etc: but I feel sure there are plenty of theoretically less qualified, but in fact more capable and knowledgeable, experienced nurses out there, who would 'knock the socks off' many newly-qualified graduates.

    mike's take on this one, would be interesting - it will probaly be 'the bespoke “fast track” six month nursing degree' MUST be made widely available, but I am guessing (that would be my position - effectively, check up on the skills of those experienced nurses, then 'treat them as having something equal to a nursing degree' if they appear to be at that level). As the NHS is 'changing the requirements', I think the NHS should also pay the costs of these 6-month 'quick degrees'.

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  • I only have my Evidence Based Practice Module to complete in order to get my top up from diploma to degree, but to obtain this I have to pay for the module myself and study in my own time. As I have worked hard to get my current modules I do not want to let my degree go, so feel I have to pay myself.

    I don't feel that I am a more qualified nurse for having my degree (when I finish it) I feel experience is much more relevant.

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  • I have done 2 modules, 1 at diploma level and 1 at degree level, and have A-leled previous modules over so that I could obtain a degree in health care, these I had to finance chiefly myself. I have now been told that I need to do at least 2-3 more modules to be able to get my degree, after changing the goal posts, this would cost me nearly £300 which I can not afford being the only breadwinner in the family. I have worked in the national health service ,on and off, for nearly 30 years and I wanted to advance my career but my trust can't afford to finance me for this amount, so what I have done has been a waste of money.

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  • I absolutely agree with Louise and anon and others, that those with years of experience but who happened to have undergone different training to the degree are no less capable or 'underskilled' to use the parlance as those who have done the degree.

    However, saying that, I think that the degree and the subsequent Masters and Doctorates ARE the future for our profession, and it is important that for those Nurses with the experience have the opportunity to study for the degree to further their careers and develop the advanced roles within our profession. You can have all the experience in the world, but to develop the roles such as advanced Nurse specialists, ENPs, etc, then degrees and higher degrees ARE a necessity. Neither is more important than the other, BOTH are needed. We constantly have to learn, update and gain qualifications throughout our career anyway, why not let this be the path that progression takes?

    All that experience AND the academic quals to go with it. THAT is the future. Then when those Nurses who are qualifying now with degrees gain that 10, 15, 20 years experience and join those who gain the degrees later, imagine what a profession we will be then? (what I would actually like to see is a basic 4 year Nursing course that incorporates a Masters as the norm, much like they are thinking about for teaching for example, but I digress.)

    However, I do think that there needs to be a lot more recognition of the cost of these top ups. Training and education is a thorny issue for us at the best of times, especially when it is often the first area to be cut in moronic money saving exercises; we constantly have to pay our own money and train in our own time for training that we are legally and professionally required to undertake, (how many of you have done mandatory training on your days off?) which I think is wholly wrong. The costs, and the time to study, should be covered by the trusts, and our working week. The top up degrees should be no different. It benefits the patients, the wards and the trusts as a whole to constantly educate and train Nurses, so by covering the costs of this education and training, they would be benefiting themselves in the long run. This 6 month fast track course is an excellent idea and it SHOULD be available to everyone, much in the same way the preceptorship was made available to newly qualifieds to give them that bit of experience. It makes sense when so many of us have already gained a smorgasbord of diverse academic credits with mentorship quals, specific specialisation diplomas such as the Occ.Health diploma, Nurse prescriber courses, etc etc etc, ON TOP OF whatever basic qualification we have. It would not take much to make a variety of courses to get the extra credits needed for degrees or even Masters for many Nurses.

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  • I'm so glad I chose to do the Diploma right before it became an all graduate entry profession. Looks like I'll never be anything other than a Band 5 at this rate. I'll be overtaken by the coming cohorts and won't be able to do a degree myself. Brilliant.

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  • Anonymous | 9-Nov-2011 0:52 am what is stopping you doing the top up? And why will you be overtaken? Experience counts too you know! Whilst I agree that it is wrong that it costs so much and we shouldn't have to pay, the fact remains that it is the reality for the moment, but you can still do it, get modules on the OU if you have to? You don't have to do it all at once? Then once you have the degree AND the experience, you can go for the higher roles.

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  • michael stone

    mike, the 'top-up' (to prove 'degree-equivalence' is different from further qualifications.

    'The costs, and the time to study, should be covered by the trusts, and our working week. The top up degrees should be no different.'

    Ideally, learnign costs should be covered by the NHS - although, if higher qualications equals more pay, you can argue that paying the costs of only those nurses who undertake higher qualifications, is unreasonable.

    But this MOVE TO DEGREES is an 'ALTERATION' to 'the 'understanding' in place when I became a nurse' - that 'top-up' should definitely be paid for by the NHS, in my opinion.

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  • Michael, "But this MOVE TO DEGREES is an 'ALTERATION' to 'the 'understanding' in place when I became a nurse' - that 'top-up' should definitely be paid for by the NHS, in my opinion." That I totally agree with. However, I would not consider a 'top up' degree any different than a 'regular' (for lack of a better word) degree.

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