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Thursday 27th October 2016

Will basic care suffer if nurses get degrees?

13th January 2010

Dr Helen Allen and Professor Pam Smith from the Centre for Research in Nursing and Midwifery Education at the University of Surrey asks if degrees mean nurses will not ‘dirty’ their hands.


Our study 'How student nurses' supernumerary status affects the way they think about nursing: a qualitative study' provoked a series of responses.

Students, nurses, health care assistants (HCAs, teachers and mentors demonstrated just how passionately they feel over the dilemma they face in trying to provide vital bedside care to patients while remaining at the heart of nursing.

The study arose from the “too posh to wash” debate and we also wanted to discover who provided the leadership for care in a changing NHS and a system that has uncoupled formal education from practice.

Trained nurses said they faced increase pressure from targets and while they felt bedside nursing was at the core of their daily work, they said targets were having an impact.

Personal care primarily performed by HCAs being divided from the technical work performed by trained nurses who administer drugs, dressings and undertake organisational work was an area of comment.

This did actually exist in the 1980s, though current pressures are stopping nurses delivering bedside care.

This reinforces perceptions that technical care is valued over bedside care as a source of learning for students' future roles.

Many respondents agreed with our findings that trained staff in placements don't always know what to do with students.

However, students are not the problem, it is the system the places them in a difficult position in the way education is de-linked from practice and the hierarchy of technical nursing over personal care.


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