The start of this new academic year is an historic moment in the continuing modernisation of training for nurses. That is because from this point forward new nurses must complete either a BN or BSc degree in order to register with the Nursing and Midwifery Council.
As somebody who trained as a cancer nurse more than 25 years ago, I warmly welcome this move towards an all graduate profession. Indeed, as many of you will know, I have long been an advocate of replacing nursing diplomas with nursing degrees.
So what are the benefits?
Well, studying for a degree gives new nurses the superior skills of critical thinking that are fundamental to reflective practice, which in turn leads to better services. Plus, these new graduate practitioners will be marked against the ambitious new professional standards criteria, which sets the bar higher than ever before. But the benefits don’t end there.
A first degree is a solid foundation stone for further development. For example, graduate nurses will represent a higher calibre contingent in the healthcare workforce – learning more quickly on the job and progressing further in their fields.
What is more, higher education also leads to improved communication skills, which are critical when it comes to performing more effectively in conjunction with other healthcare professionals in the multidisciplinary environment.
It was the identification of these undeniable benefits, together with the unfaltering drive and world class ability of my Health Sciences colleagues, which eventually led to us becoming the first university in the country to receive full NMC accreditation for our BN nursing degrees in 2011.
Then in 2012 our nursing programmes became all degree – one year ahead of the schedule set by the NMC. As a result, next summer will see the first 350 of our graduate nurses emerge into the healthcare economy, where their higher level skill set will make a profound and lasting difference to the services they provide.
These achievements have reaffirmed our reputation for being at the leading edge of healthcare education: a reputation on which we continue to build.
Ultimately though, let us take a moment now to acknowledge this historic shift towards more modern training for nurses. It is the right thing for everyone concerned.