Today’s Times newspaper has run an article under the headlines ‘Trust trains its own nurses to nurture better ‘attitudes’. The articles talks about how the Heart of England
NHS Foundation Trust, based in Birmingham is reverting to the in house training that was the standard before nursing was made a university qualification in the 1990’s. This comes in the wake of the Royal College of Nursing’s chief executive Peter Carter saying that nurses were‘ simply not up to the mark’ and suggesting that the new degree level approach to nursing registration was seeing some universities failing to give hands on training in a way which prepared them for life on the wards.
Peter Carter agrees that the level of training should be a degree level because patients need nurses who are able to clinically reason and the RCN have campaigned for years to move towards an all graduate workforce. However, what I believe that Peter and all those that have campaigned for an all graduate workforce have failed to recognise is that a degree does not necessary mean that we develop caring nurses. The art of nursing is in the application of the science it is not the science.
If we are going to improve the standard of caring in our health service it is not just about academic achievement it is about how we apply our academic framework – this is not taught in a classroom but rather it is modelled and reinforced in the clinical setting. It is over optimistic to believe that we can give the academic framework and ensure that nurses spend sufficient time in the clinical setting during a three year programme.
It was for good reason that the early degrees in nursing where four year courses.
I believe that we do need nurses with degrees but also with PHDs but we also need nurses who are caring and I have yet to be convinced that nurses can’t be caring and competent with a diploma. We have yet to see whether an all graduate workforce will be able to recruit sufficient students to staff our health system and to provide a workforce who care.