Improvements in patient care must be based on evidence and not media grabbing knee-jerk proposals
Authors: Dr Peter Carter
Dr Peter Carter, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN)
25 April 2013
Why would an individual go into the nursing profession today, in 2013? Perhaps because of a frozen salary? A reduced pension? Or the constant barrage of criticism and name-calling? No. In reality, the overwhelming majority of our student nurses chose nursing because they want to care for people when they are most vulnerable. The government however, is labouring under the illusion that our would-be nurses have an ulterior motive, and are entering nursing with no real desire to deliver the fundamentals of nursing.
The government’s latest proposal is to make future nurses work as a health care assistant (HCA) for up to a year, before being allowed to start their training. It’s a solution to a problem that does not exist. The evidence shows that not only are there no major shortcomings in the way we train nurses, but that graduate nurses actually drive up standards. The RCN is currently holding its annual Congress and Lord Willis, chair of the independent commission on nursing education, has addressed delegates this week. He strongly rebutted the government’s proposal and told the hall “improvements in patient care must be based on evidence not media grabbing knee-jerk proposals – many of which [Robert] Francis did not propose and which have little evidence to support their introduction”.
The reality, which one would have expected the government to know, is that student nurses currently spend half of their degree on clinical placements. They spend this time walking the wards, and learning about care in our communities. They are shown the importance of fundamental care and are regularly inspired by the compassion of their mentors.
Nurse education is fit for purpose; it does not need interventions from Whitehall that show no understanding of the way the system works, nor the evidence at hand.
Nurses do not need to be told that they enter the profession for the wrong reason. Instead, they need adequately staffed wards, they need decent budgets and they need the freedom to get on with the job. Our Congress has sent a powerful message this week; the government would do well to listen.
According to a survey by the RCN, Almost 90 per cent of nursing staff said staffing levels were not always adequate to provide safe patient care, with almost a third saying they were rarely or never safe. More than 8,000 RCN members responded to the survey.
The Royal College of Nursing is a partner of The Work Foundation.
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