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.”