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Too many nurse leaders in 'quasi-medical' roles, says prominent doc


Nursing lacks adequate role models because so many senior nurses end up in management and “quasi-medical” roles, a prominent doctor involved in nursing education has told MPs.

Sir John Tooke, head of University College London’s medical school, was speaking at a House of Commons health committee meeting held last week as part of an inquiry into education and training.

Sir John, who wrote a high profile report on medical education in 2008 and is currently involved in developing a postgraduate career pathway for nurses at UCL, told the MPs: “It’s incredibly important that nursing, in developing its profession, recognises the importance of role models.

“I would argue that one of the problems in the way nursing professional education has gone is that the majority of people at the top of the profession are doing roles which are beyond…the conventional view of what the nursing role is.”

A trainee doctor could look to GPs and consultants and see a career path they might like to take, he said. But “if a trainee nurse looks to the sort of role they might aspire to, they see people doing management or often some quasi medical role…not a classical nursing role”. A solution was to develop ward sisters “as a very strong representative of the caring profession”, he added.

University Hospitals Birmingham’s chief executive Dame Julie Moore told the committee Sir John had made a “really good point” regarding the need for good role models in nursing. Dame Julie is a nurse by background and led the NHS Future Forum’s work on education and training.

Jill Maben, director of the national nursing research unit at King’s College London, told Nursing Times research had shown the importance of role models to newly qualified nurses. “Often ward sisters are great role models but many other people can be role models,” she said.

Despite Sir John’s comments, she said senior nurse managers could also fill the role, especially through taking part in “back to the floor” initiatives in which they worked a shift with frontline staff.

She added: “Clinical nurse practitioners can be excellent role models, particularly around how to communicate with patients and relatives.”

Committee member and Labour MP Rosie Cooper reacted to Sir John’s comments by asking whether too many nurses were focussing on postgraduate education instead of concentrating on bedside care.

But Dame Julie said improving care was the whole point of the move to degree only entry for nursing. She said: “What we’re talking about is giving people better skills at the bedside.”


Readers' comments (18)

  • tinkerbell

    Absolutely agree prominent Doc.

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  • Whilst I agree with the thrust of the argument, remind me who it was that wanted nurses to take on roles that were once the domain of medics?
    Yes, you've got it, medics themselves and all to free up their time, the time that was being impinged upon by the EU working time directives.
    Will the medics take back the work they gave up to allow nurses to become the role models he suggests.
    Don't hold your breath.

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  • Or it could be the problem lies with what other people consider what a nurse is. I notice they refer to ward "sisters". I’m a male nurse, who would I aspire to? Or does the conventional role still lie within peoples mind as a female Drs handmaiden? Please drop the matron and sister mentality and look at the profession through modern eyes not some confection from the past.

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  • the role and job description of a registered nurse is no longer as clearly defined as it once was and appears to differ from one hc facility to another. their main role now seems to be general dog's body and they often get extra work dumped upon them that others do not want to do or are unable to do through lack of staff, resources, etc. if we remove this vital role from nurses who will provide this invaluable service? Gaps will be left!

    I, for example, have become far more multiskilled than I could have ever dreamed of in the school of nursing and this also stands me in very good stead in my own household as manager, administrator, secretary, cleaner, first aider, nursemaid, nanny, porter, medical services transporter, surgeon (well not quite!), counsellor, psychiatrist, master carpenter, master plumber, head gardener (yes, I even learned that in one hospital department!) and anything you like to throw my way. and even on very rare occasions THE BOSS! Not a bad list for a working housewife. Perhaps I am even poly- skilled enough to set up my own private medical clinic!

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  • tinkerbell

    Despite Sir John’s comments, she said senior nurse managers could also fill the role, especially through taking part in “back to the floor” initiatives in which they worked a shift with frontline staff.

    Use it or lose it managers. Come and see what we have to cope with on a good day never mind a ghastly one. Lead by example. Work a shift with us. 'I hear and i forget, i see and i remember, i do and i understand' ? Carl Rogers or Abraham Maslow. Haven't got time to google, just off to work now to juggle some more plates before one comes crashing to the ground.

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  • tinkerbell

    'I hear and i forget, i see and i remember, i do and i understand'

    apparently Confuscious.

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  • Little One

    Why shouldn't I aspire to be the Chief Nursing Officer if that's what I so choose to do? It's not exactly a standard 'ward sister' job is it? Should this not be allowed?

    Anywho, in all reality I aspire to be like my mummy, a nurse consultant, she runs her own clinics, is an independent prescriber and is just about to finish her PhD. She's very clever and I'm very proud of her. But again, her job is not a standard 'ward sister' either, her job is 'quasi-medical', so should we not aspire to increase our knowledge and skills beyond that of basic nursing care?

    We aren't living in the olden days anymore and the 'conventional' view of nursing has changed. If I'm totally missing the point then I apologise, but not all of us are going to be ward nurses for the rest of our lives, and that's a good thing! It's a brilliant thing that the nursing role is becoming more advanced and far reaching, and I'm very intrigued and excited about what my nursing career may hold.

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  • Even if my knackered back allowed me to do ward work at Sister level - I prefer working as an autonomous senior nurse practitioner in an acute setting.

    I am NOT a 'mini doctor' but a 'maxi nurse' and a 'role model' to both the nurses and the doctors who come here on placement!

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  • Anonymous | 31-Jan-2012 12:05 pm

    'surgeon (well not quite!)'.

    I believe there is, or was once, a small book titled something like 'Surgery for Ship's Captains' which, if you read it, might complete your skill set !

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  • Anonymous | 31-Jan-2012 3:01 pm

    I like it. thanks for the tip for my CPD. Perhaps it would be appropriate to add butcher to my household skills instead!

    On the wards I would like to go back to the white frilly cuffs I could don over my rolled up sleeves, a dark blue dress and a frilly cap so that I really looked the part as a role model as well as acting like one! Sadly, a priviledge I never enjoyed, the uniform I mean (although I did manage to aspire to a navy blue polysomething sack, but no hat and no frills!)

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