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Helping the Elderly

NURSE TRAINING – QUALIFIED TO CARE?

I am a Nurse and I absolutely love my job. I qualified as a Staff Nurse in 2005 after completing my 3 years training at Diploma level. Yes, Diploma….I do not have a Degree!

I first started working in the caring profession when I was 16, my first job in a Nursing Home having decided at the age of 12 that I wanted to be a Nurse. When I was nearing the end of my time at school and completing my GCSE’s, I had to make the choice whether to stay on and attempt ‘A’ levels knowing I would struggle, or to spend a few years getting valuable caring experience. After all, it is the unfortunate truth that some people, no matter how much they want to be nurses, just cannot deal with some of the unpleasant tasks that the job entails. I had no doubts but I thought it would be wiser to make sure I was OK with all aspects… the various bodily fluids, the smells that can turn your stomach, the infected wounds, the wide spectrum of noises that the human body can make… thankfully I am fine with it all and the only thing that I dislike is over grown toenails… we all have our hangups don’t we.

I was never a ‘straight A’ student in school. ‘A’ for effort but never on an academic level. I fought tooth and nail to get through all of my GCSE’s, taking on extra lessons, a Maths tutor and even extra homework! I kept the thought of beginning my nurse training firmly in mind and that is what saw me through to achieving my 9 GCSE’s… 0 A’s, a few B’s and mostly C’s but they were enough for me to get into my training. I never thought and still don’t think I would have been able to pass ‘A’ levels.

When I applied to do my nurse training, ‘A’ levels were not a requirement but experience in the caring environment was considered an asset so I was thrilled when I got accepted to begin the course having worked for almost 2 years as a Nursing Assistant. Safe to say that I grew up with Nursing. I loved it as soon as I started and learnt valuable skills such as how to feed someone, how to help someone wash and dress and how to give bed baths and continence care whilst maintaining respect and dignity.

I have now been qualified for 9 years and working in this profession for 14… almost half of my life! I qualified with my Diploma and began working on an emergency surgery ward at the tender age of 21 – a real sink or swim type ward and loved it! There is nothing quite like the adrenalin rush you get from saving someone’s life. Nursing is so much more than a job, it is a way of life, a calling, an obligation, and above all, an honour – we have been chosen to care for people when they are at their most vulnerable, when they cannot care for themselves and they need our help. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else with my life.

However, I am quite disheartened that nurse training is now at Degree level only – there is no option to do a Diploma. This may well mean that the students will be more receptive to all the lectures and learning that will take place, the books, the studying, the essays and presentations. But, I fear that the nursing profession is going to lose some much needed, naturally caring people who are not necessarily academically minded but want to be nurses as it is all they have ever wanted to do. No amount of books can teach someone how to care, how to comfort and how to be compassionate. These are pre-requisites in a fabulous nurse. I am not suggesting for one minute that Degree level nurses are any less caring or compassionate than Diploma level nurses. But, in my opinion, by the Universities only accepting those candidates with ‘A’ levels and capability of passing a Degree, the nursing profession and more importantly, the patients – the people that we do all of this for, will be missing out on some fantastic Nurses.

I know that most patients just want a Nurse who will hold a hand if they need to cry, sit and chat in the wee small hours when worry keeps them awake, be a friend and advocate without wondering whether they qualified with a Diploma or a Degree.

Nursing is a bit like learning to drive – books and lessons will teach you enough to pass your course, the real learning starts when you are out there ‘behind the wheel’, that is when you really come into your own. Passion, enthusiasm and experience has a lot to do with nursing and I have never once felt held back or regretted not having taken a nursing Degree. I, as well as many of my friends and colleagues, have achieved a lot with our Diploma’s… and I am pretty sure our patients would agree with that.

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