I wholeheartedly believe that nursing should be a degree educated, graduate-entry level profession – and I would seriously question the rationale behind anyone who opposed this view. There would be no question about doctors, psychologists, pharmacists, radiologists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, dietitians etc., being educated to degree level; so why nurses?
As the nursing role has evolved, it is inevitable and crucial that nursing education should have too. Nurses must be critical thinkers, who can analyse evidence, enabling them to deliver the best evidence-based, patient-centred care. This ability to critique not only provides optimal patient care and outcomes, but it is also what strengthens their position as advocates and protects patient safety. If nurses are not educated in a manner that encourages and enables them to be critical thinkers, then how can they be doing this? We must always question and challenge the ‘norm’, and the ‘way things have always been done’. However, this is not always popular. There has been a long history of a hierarchical workforce in healthcare and nurses have been expected to follow orders, and do what has been asked of them without question. But, times have changed – and for the better.
The Nursing and Midwifery (NMC) Code states that nurses must: prioritise people, practise effectively, preserve safety, and promote professionalism and trust. How can nurses do this if they are not educated to degree level that teaches them the necessary skills and fosters a questioning mindset? I would also argue that to embody the 6Cs of nursing – care, compassion, courage, communication, commitment and competence – nurses must be able to challenge and be equipped with the knowledge that allows them to do so.
There is a reason that nursing education has changed; it has been a change for the better. Reverting to any form of education that takes nursing students outside of university would be an unwise decision. It would be detrimental to the profession, but most importantly to patients. We must stop looking at the past with rose-tinted glasses; we must embrace the future.