The training of nurses has promoted them further and further away from the interests of their patients. In the late 1980s, nursing turned itself into an academic profession. Nurses desiring increased status and greater parity with doctors sought to transform their training into a graduate profession. The result is "a frigging mess", according to a member of the King's Fund, a charitable foundation concerned with health.
One senior staff nurse at a hospital in the West Country, who teaches at the local university, pointed out - logically enough - that the academic status of the qualification means "there has to be a lot of theory". But there is too much theory, too much emphasis on social policy and communication skills - and not enough practical work.
At a London A&E department, a staff nurse who had recently qualified complained to me that her training had not prepared her at all. In 18 months of study, she had spent only one and a half hours learning how to take blood pressure and a patient's temperature. On the other hand, a whole afternoon had been devoted to poverty in Russia.
"They don't prepare you for the things that matter," said the nurse. Instead, she had learnt how to approach a patient and what mannerisms to adopt. She shrugged. "If you don't know that already, then why are you becoming a nurse?" she asked rhetorically. Or, as an Irish sister of 17 years' experience put it: "No, I have never felt the lack of studying sociology. Kindness and common sense go a long way.''
The staff nurse had been astonished to discover how little anatomy or physiology her course contained. Anxious that her grasp of these essential subjects was "not as good as it could be", she approached her tutors. But they took a relaxed view.
Wednesday, December 31, 2003
Here's a depressing story about the state of nursing in England. I hope it's not that bad there.
Posted by Betsy Newmark at 8:00 PM