The Westminster government has rubber-stamped plans for nursing in England to become a degree-only profession. The chief nursing officer for England, Christine Beasley told BBC Radio 4 that the change was a "small but important step" that would help give nurses the "real ability to think and make decisions" as care becomes more complex. "It's not about moving nurses away from direct care."
I'm sure readers will correct me but I think Scotland is going down this path too and I have a few concerns.
Firstly, I have no objection whatsoever to anyone from any walk of life gaining a university degree, in fact on the contrary, I think many deserve it.
But nursing is one of those vocations which does not necessarily rely upon academic ability as much as character. The work requires particular characteristics which aren't found in all of us - such as empathy, listening skills, the ability to react speedily to their own gut instincts. If a trainee nurse doesn't have these skills, will studying a degree provide them? Not very likely although it will provide an understanding of modern technologies and treatments which of course will be of benefit to patients.
Will the fact that a university course is required be a deterrent to some young men and women who would dearly love to enter into the nursing profession? Yes I think it will. Less confident young people will turn away from nursing because it requires this academic qualification. Some of them will possibly have the unique qualities required in a nurse so they will be lost to the profession.
Will knowing all nurses have a university degree instill more confidence in patients? I don't think it will. When you're ill you know when someone cares for you by their attitude, not by the academic qualifications they hold.
Of course nursing, like all professions, should encourage staff to develop as much as possible, but I would prefer this to be on a voluntary basis not a compulsory one.
Speaking of nursing reminded me of this article on the BBC site. I wonder if we'll hear more about it as details are revealed.