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Two lessons that nursing can learn from teachers

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Can the image of nursing be transformed in the same way as that of teaching has been? It’s a compelling ambition, and the ‘Use your head’ campaign to attract people to teaching provides a powerful example of what can be achieved.

Many NT readers will know people who have switched careers to contribute to the education of the young – and may also remember how unlikely a choice that would have seemed back in, say, the 1980s, when becoming a teacher was about as attractive a life decision as buying a holiday home in Afghanistan’s Helmand province would be today.

But the rescue of teaching from the occupational dustbin was not solely achieved by a marketing campaign. People were offered financial incentives, and money was ploughed into improving school buildings and reducing class sizes.

Many nurses now work in new or refurbished buildings and in well-staffed and trained teams, and pay has increased significantly. But it is arguable that enough has been done for nursing to reach a par with teaching as a career choice.

There is another comparison to be made with education in the second important initiative from the Department of Health this week – albeit one with a less encouraging precedent.

The introduction of performance measurement into education – whether as SATs, school league tables or an aggressive inspection regime – has been highly controversial.

NT readers might react with some trepidation, therefore, to the proposal to introduce standardised metrics to measure the quality and effectiveness of nursing care.

However, if they are properly developed and implemented, accurate indicators such as healthcare-associated pneumonia, staffing levels and patients’ experience of care should only underline the importance and contribution of nurses. It should also help signpost how nursing practice can change to deliver better care.

When it comes to the allocation of resources, credible metrics would give nursing directors the ammunition to argue their case as strongly as some medical directors can. For in modern healthcare, what gets measured is what gets noticed.

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