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The academic integrity of the nursing degree must be protected

  • Comments (5)

Last week’s announcement that an apprenticeship route into nursing is to be developed has caused quite a stir.

Despite vociferous opposition from the “too posh to wash” brigade – who maintain nurses do little that requires the ability to think, this year nursing finally becomes an all-graduate-entry profession. And the benefits of having a highly educated nursing workforce have been confirmed by the authors of a huge Europe-wide study, who conclude that all-graduate nurses could reduce preventable deaths. It seems unfortunate timing, therefore, to announce a scheme whereby “the brightest and best” healthcare assistants can skip the requirement to go to university yet still gain a nursing degree.

Although we don’t have all the details yet, it’s difficult to see how it will be anything other than a “degree-lite” if there is no requirement to attend university. It’s also difficult to see how a 50:50 split between theory and practice can be achieved, or how NMC-approved education providers can deliver the apprenticeship – unless non-university institutions are to be approved.

I can see the logic behind a scheme supporting the brightest HCAs to become qualified nurses, but if the current system of access courses doesn’t work, surely that should be improved? We need to enable those capable of gaining a degree to do so, but this must not involve anything that devalues – or even just appears to devalue – existing nursing degree courses. Universities won’t attract the brightest and best prospective students onto nursing degree courses that are perceived to be equal to apprenticeships.

However, while the academic integrity of the nursing degree must be protected, all-graduate entry has widened the gap between HCAs and nurses. It leaves a huge group of HCAs who are capable of providing high-quality, compassionate care but who don’t have the academic capabilities to gain a degree with little opportunity to develop their careers and improve their incomes.

Some employers are addressing this issue by improving career pathways for HCAs. These HCAs are being trained to take on more responsibilities specific to their individual roles and capabilities, and employed at band 4; their role could be compared to that of the old enrolled nurse.

Surely it makes more sense to improve career opportunities for HCAs than to risk devaluing the nursing degrees the profession has spent decades fighting for?

  • Comments (5)

Readers' comments (5)

  • Anonymous

    Whilst all for a nurse who has the intellectual ability to complete a degree I am also of the opinion that the vocational nurses are being excluded to accommodate an elitist society. I have worked in rural Africa where the HCA equivalent taught me more about diagnosis and management of disease than I learned during my degree'd nursing training. There is no substitute for experience and yes a degree'd nurse may know more when they come out of uni but my experience is that they are not in the job to maske the life of the sick any better but rather that it is a means to gaining a reputation and a decent salary. They do behave all too often as 'too posh to wash' and their attitude, whilst a generalisation, is one of arrogance.

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  • Anonymous

    Really disagree with anon 2.36 you need both clincial experienc and academic underpinning.

    Trained as a registered nurse in 1985 - lets not go back to the 'bad old days'. Now we need more than ever nurses which are academically bright as well as compassionate and excellant in practice.

    it should not be HCA route or academic nurse route. Nurses need to have a good grounding in both. Not one at the expense of the other.

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  • Bring back state enrolled nurses and auxiliary nurses for a start! All this snobery regarding who should be called nurse is getting boring now. Our hospital is in the process of re instating the aux nurse title and not before time. And yes bring back ward training too it was good enough and worked then be honest, all this " I have a degree" is worrying in itself. You don't need a degree hanging from your backside to be a good nurse.

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  • Anonymous

    I strongly disagree with anon 2.36. Some of the generalised statements are incorrect. The whole "too posh to wash" scenario is simply untrue. I have a degree in psychology and will be going back to University to train to be a nurse and I am by no means "too posh to wash" and neither any of the other student nurses I know.

    Both academic and practice experience are of equal importance, my degree will be split 50/50 for theory and placements, which gives the best of both worlds.

    I'm also not choosing to enter the profession for a reputation and decent salary. I have chosen nursing because I am passionate about caring for those that are unwell.

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  • Anonymous

    Lets get some perspective current nurse training is 50% in practice so there is your ward training. It is essential that nurses have the ability to have an academic knowledge base, we can't on one hand want to be treated as equal healthcare professionals alongside AHP's/ Medical staff but not want to have a university acquired knolwedge base. Yes I started my training in 1980 " From thr old school" so please do not bring it back... they were not all the good days. ,doing things because Sister said so with no research base was not good patient care.

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