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Nursing misconceptions must be addressed to improve recruitment

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Nursing is a profession that I am extremely proud to be pursuing, but is not what I had pictured myself doing when I was a child. Like many others, I misunderstood the role of the modern nurse.

A career in nursing is definitely not for everyone and there are many obstacles that prevent nursing students from completing their training.

One obvious barrier is the loss of the NHS bursary, although that is not the topic that I wish to discuss here.

There are many people who understand and appreciate what being a nurse entails, but I personally feel that the role of the nurse today is widely misunderstood. Addressing these misconceptions may help to recruit people who never realised that nursing might be for them.

These are some common misconceptions of nursing that I have personally encountered and would like to address:

  • “All nurses do is give out medication and wash people. They assist the doctors”;
  • “You don’t need to be clever to do nursing. It’s not a proper degree”;
  • “If I do nursing I will never have a good salary”.

“Being a nurse is about being part of a multidisciplinary team”

I generally receive a positive response when I tell people that I am training to be a paediatric nurse but I have, on occasion, been met with comments asking why I study nursing if all nurses do is “wash people and give out medication”.

Yes, a part of nursing is assisting with personal care and helping to maintain the dignity and respect of your patients, but there is so much more to it.

Being a nurse is about being part of a multidisciplinary team, working together with doctors to ensure that each patient receives appropriate care tailored to their specific needs; it’s about being an advocate for your patients and providing them with the best medical care possible.

It is true that the entry requirements to study nursing vary between universities, and by no means does the academic work compare to that of a PhD in astrophysics. Despite this, being a good nurse relies on having a solid base of medical knowledge that comes from both training and experience.

In addition to this, using your initiative, problem-solving, working under pressure and possessing good organisational and personal skills are all vital to the role.

In terms of academic university work I still have to write a systematic literature review for my dissertation and pass a series of written and practical examinations. If that is not a ‘proper degree’, then I struggle to understand why not.

Again, the academic work varies between universities, but to qualify all student nurses must meet the standards set out by the Nursing and Midwifery Council. 

“It is absolutely possible to be an academic as well as a nurse”

Nurses are not just limited to ward work. Many nurses work in research, education and management, or choose to return to university to get a master’s degree and their advanced nurse practitioner qualification. It is absolutely possible to be an academic as well as a nurse.

It is no secret that the average salary for an NHS band 5 nurse is lower than the starting salary for many other graduate jobs. However, there is room to quickly progress to higher roles, gain experience in new areas and work extra shifts. There will always be nursing jobs available.

With such varied career prospects, I am surprised that nursing was never an option anyone suggested at school.

My teachers or peers never discouraged me; it was simply not seen as an aspirational career. The only alumnae that came to talk about careers were discussing engineering, law, medicine and getting into Oxbridge.

As a result of this, I was always met with a quiet response when I was asked what I was going to study at university – and this would usually be followed with negative comments about the state of the NHS and my potential salary.

I felt as though I always had to justify my choice and push to stay motivated to pursue nursing.

I truly believe that if nursing was presented in a more honest way, then more people – who would make excellent nurses and had not considered it as a career choice – may be more inclined to begin their training.

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