Things have come a long way from the time when Margaret Thatcher felt able to imply the low professional status of nurses by declaring that it was a good way to get a husband. (As I recall, she was excusing their low pay at the time. Some things do not change.) But they may have gone too far in the opposite direction.
I make no apologies for linking to Independent articles which are based on the English NHS, because the basic pattern of nursing careers is the same in Wales, having been set before devolution. In a series which started last
Tuesday (and continued on Wednesday, yesterday and today), Christina Patterson examined the perception that today's nurses suffer from callousness, or at best a deficit of compassion. As the first article showed, the starting point for the series was her own experience as a surgical patient.
The introduction to the Wednesday article is significant: "When I asked people who worked, or had worked, in the NHS what they thought had caused the biggest changes in nursing care, nearly all of them mentioned something called Project 2000. This was a new system introduced in the early 1990s, which moved the training of nurses out of hospitals and into universities. Instead of the old apprenticeship system where nurses were attached to hospital schools, and trained on the job, they now had to study off-site for a diploma, or degree. And now, even the diplomas are being phased out. By next year, all nurses who qualify in this country will have to get a degree. [...]
"It wouldn't be fair to say that Project 2000 has produced nurses who are 'too posh to wash', or that their training is all about theory, and not practice. Trainee nurses do spend about half their training time on the wards, but they are supervised by 'mentors' who are often too busy doing paperwork to help them turn theory into practice."
This shift towards an academic approach to nursing mirrors what has been happening in local government social services. In the opinion of many people it needs to be reversed, in both professions.
I invite comments and/or corrections from anyone with informed views.