What does being a nurse mean?

The job role of the nurse has, historically, been a very changeable thing. Different eras, cultures and nations have assigned different jobs to nurses. In some places nurses are virtually doctors, prescribing drugs and diagnosing. In others they are pretty much there to fill the gap between porter and doctor, carrying bedpans and making beds.

The differences might appear stark in some cases – Australia still has state enrolled nurses, rather than the full registered nurses that the UK demands as a minimum entry qualification. This difference is looking like it will change dramatically soon too, with the UK government making entry into nursing only available to graduates.

What does being a nurse mean

The profession is considered to have evolved into the modern paradigm during the era of Florence Nightingale, when standardised technique and training started to come into force. These days nursing is a fully trained profession, and not the on the job “trade” that existed previously. The change in Nursing qualifications to remove the Diploma and introduce a Bachelor degree-only route into practice isn’t the big deal many people seem to think it will be. The way I look at it is that Nursing is currently a profession requiring 3 years of higher Education to enter. The Diploma take the exact same amount of time as the Degree, the only difference being the demand on academic work in the final year of each course. There is an issue of funding, as the Diploma route is currently free and the Degree costs the same as a standard Bachelors from any UK university, but this is minor and will be resolved.

In my opinion the big change is, or at least appears to be, the move from a caring profession to a scientific one. A lot of reports seem to feel that removing students from wards to classrooms will be detrimental to the quality of care issued. Under current training student nurses spend over 50% of their time on placement as supernumerary staff. One article I’ve seen claims that this supernumerary status is a major reason for a fall in standards. The only way that having the pressure of having to know everything from the word go can negatively affect patient care and nursing skills is when the teaching isn’t up to scratch by qualified nurses. University should be for expanding our minds, but the authors argument that skills can only be taught at Nursing Colleges suggests a blank lack of knowledge of what a nursing degree entails.

The mixture of practical and clinical skills with theory and ideological skills that I’m learning is spot on, as far as I’m concerned. I don’t want to learn what a blood pressure means or how anti-pyrexics alter the state of a fever at a patient’s bedside, and certainly not after I’ve been taking observations for 6 months. To say that academic skills will not benefit a nurse is ludicrous, and in my opinion quite offensive. The university nursing model isn’t perfect, but it serves a job very well, and I don’t want to lose it in favour of being a vocational doormat to medical staff.

Part of what I think will make me and my classmates good nurses is that we are taught so much outside of how to make sympathetic noises and tea, but training on the wards under expert staff will give us all of the practical skills traditionally seen in nursing.