Q&A with Ann Keen

Commission Chair Ann Keen MP responds to some of the common questions about degree level nursing.

Why is there a need to change things if the current system of degrees and diplomas works?

Nurses today need to balance the fundamental care they have traditionally offered with high-level technical skills, bio-medical knowledge and decision-making abilities. They also need to be able to develop therapeutic relationships based on compassion and holistic and intelligent care.

We still need to select nurses for their traditional core values of caring and compassion but we must strive to ensure nurses’ education, development and their careers support them in delivering high quality care in the 21st century. They must be able to work independently but also be members and leaders of multi-disciplinary teams, working with colleagues who are mostly educated to graduate level or higher.

Does this mean existing graduates and diplomates are not fit for purpose?

Of course not. Their education and registration are not in question and they bring a wealth of experience to nursing and healthcare delivery. And, I’m sure, they will continue to do so. All registered nurses will have gained experience and further knowledge and skills through their roles and meeting NMC registration renewal requirements for continuing professional development.

Won’t graduates be ‘too posh to wash’?

No. All new recruits will still need to show that they have the right values and attributes to meet the unique demands of being a nurse – as they currently have to do. All new nursing graduates need the knowledge, skills and attitudes to nurse with care and compassion. At the same time, they will be able to make crucial decisions, based on evidence, in providing safe and effective care.

When this change comes into practice, will all nurses have to have degrees?

No. This change only applies to new nurses studying to become nurses in the UK. Existing nurses will not need to study for a degree. Employers will need to consider, as they do now, if they want to support and help nurses without degrees who want to study for a degree.

Will current nurses without degrees be allowed to retain their registration?

Yes. The NMC is setting a degree as the minimum standard for new programmes to ensure future nurses have the knowledge and skills they will need to meet the increasing demands and complexity of delivering care in the future.

There is no intention to make currently registered nurses get a degree in order to retain their registration. The NMC and other regulators are exploring ways for existing nurses to demonstrate the knowledge and skills needed to practice safely and effectively in the different roles they now undertake.

Does the change in requirements reflect on the value of our current nurses?

Not at all! Their education and registration are absolutely not in question. Our current nurses bring a wealth of experience to nursing and healthcare delivery.

All registered nurses learn and achieve an abundance of knowledge and skills during their working life. They may not actually hold a degree, but many will already be practising at much, much higher levels and responsibilities than when they initially qualified. It is essential that this is recognised. Existing nurses are an equal, very valued part of the team, and will continue to be so.

How will the Nursing and Midwifery Commission respond to this?

The Commission supports the move to degree level registration and is clear that patients and service users want high quality compassionate care from nurses and midwives.

During our testing and engagement phases certain issues were raised about this transition and how the change affects already registered nurses educated through the diploma route. We will be addressing some of the issues around degree level registration in detail in our final report early in 2010, as well as setting out why the Commission believes this move is so important for nursing.

One Response to “Q&A with Ann Keen”

  1. We may need a cultural and attitudinal shift from our colleagues too. No nurse works in isolation; he or she is part of a team, as Jonh Donne so eloquently tells us “each be a part of the whole” . There needs to be a “whole” shift; not just academic credibility on the part of nursing, but the attitude and perception of nursing from clinical and non clinical colleagues.