Nuring in the NHS

There has been a lot of discussion in the press lately about the state of nursing in our country today. Some saying that because nurses now have degrees they are "too posh to wash". I was a nurse for 44 years and a nurse tutor/senior lecturer for the last 22 years of those 44. During my time as a tutor I continued to work with student nurses giving patient care. I therefore think I qualify to comment.

Nurse training changed around the year 2000 when some substantial alterations were made. Until then, student nurses had been part of the workforce on the wards. Their wages came from the hospital budget, they were counted in the numbers and were often sent to other wards to make up the shortfall. The areas they were to work in was decided by the Schools of Nursing, depending on their training needs.Being sent to help in other wards would mean that instead of getting, for instance, experience in the surgical unit they might well be sent to a medical ward to help out.

One of the major results of the new training was that nurses were removed from the ward staff numbers and from the control of the hospital. They became supernumerary

A bursary was received instead of wages and teaching was no longer done in local Schools of Nursing, all teaching occurred in Colleges of Higher Education or Universities, which were often some way from the hospital in which they would be working.

Many students actually wanted to do the old style training but were not given an option. Responsibility was given to staff on the ward to teach the practical side. Previously, student nurses had spent a longer time on the wards and less in the classroom. Now it was 50/50. 50% in class & 50% in practice. Some people continue to argue that as a practical skill, nursing should be taught on the clinical areas, but it is essential that nurses have knowledge to justify any care that they give.

The days of saying Sister/ Doctor told me to have thankfully gone and nurses are practitioners in their own right

The changes to the training meant that there were changes to the perception of students by ward staff and the students themselves. Some students & trained staff think they are too well qualified to do the menial tasks. This however isn't anything new! It has happened since I was a young nurse. Some nurses will always delegate and get auxiliaries, and, or, care assistants to do what they consider to be tasks that are beneath them. However the clue is in the name, assistant not replacement.

Some folk also wear rose tinted glasses!! Nurses have not always been the angels portrayed, not all of them anyway. I remember a night sister who would not give pain relief to a dying man "because he had already had enough" As soon as the 4 hours were up and he could have more I rang her. Soon after the dose he died but she refused to certify him for a while because she "did not like patients dying so soon after she had given an injection"

Other nurses were truly inspirational and I always hoped to be like them

We have always had bad nurses, average nurses and exceptional nurses. Nothing has changed except perhaps as a society we are less caring? I strongly object to Jeremy Hunt stating that " cruelty became the norm in the NHS" That is a load of tosh. Most people working in the NHS want to do a good job. If they are constantly being put down and told they are useless they quickly become demoralised. I accept nurses make mistakes but they are human and I defy anyone to say they have never made a mistake in their own lives. Until we have robots to give care,sometimes mistakes will be made, some things will be said that should not be said.

I would not want to go back to the days when a student nurse in her second year was left in charge of a ward full of patients at night

The auxiliaries were wonderful, but the trained staff were a phone call away and when you needed help they would often quiz you instead of recognising you were concerned and coming straight away.

Nursing has changed and always will be changing, but instead of constantly knocking our nurses, let us give them the help and the resources that they need to do the usually excellent job they aspire to do.

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