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They don't quite hit the dramatic heights of the Leveson Inquiry, but if you have more than a passing interest in nurse education, then the Willis Commission transcripts make for fascinating reading.
Lord Willis and his panel of experts have been grilling some high-profile figures from the health world on what needs to be done to secure a nursing workforce fit for the future.
The underlying premise is that the current workforce is not 'fit for purpose' - as that overworked phrase puts it. Certainly the mainstream media would have us believe that nursing has somehow 'lost its way' and nurses are not as caring and compassionate as they were in the good old days. A common claim is that the root of the problem lies in nursing's move to an all-graduate profession. But thankfully it looks as though the Willis panel have been left in no doubt that this is rubbish. As more than one witness has pointed out, there is no evidence whatsoever linking the gaining of a degree to the loss of one's care and compassion.
As for the charge of nursing losing its way, that might be a harder slur to shake off. Could there perhaps be a grain of truth in it? Certainly many registered nurses complain that they do not have the time to nurse in the way they want to. People come into the profession for all sorts of reasons, but one thing's for sure: you do not sign up because you aspire to fill out forms and be a slave to endless guidelines and protocols. Nor do you expect to be so short-staffed that you have no time to connect with the people you are caring for.
The latter was a point picked up at a Nursing Standard roundtable debate, set up as part of our Care campaign, which highlighted the need to tackle inadequate and unsafe staffing levels.
It is an issue that the commission needs to address. The panel has heard how staff shortages mean nursing students are not getting the sort of clinical placements where they can see what good nursing looks like. The trick for Lord Willis is to come up with a plan for change that will make a difference to the delivery of nursing. If he fails, his report will join that dusty pile of good intentions that litters the history of nursing.
Editorial | 15th August 2012 | vol 26 no 50
Nursing Standard is published every Wednesday by RCN Publishing Company Ltd, the publishing company of the Royal College of Nursing.
It seeks to promote professional excellence, and encourage creativity and innovation in nursing, midwifery and health visiting practice. Nursing Standard also aims to enhance nurses' and healthcare assistants' career development and to help them achieve and maintain a healthy and rewarding working environment. Nursing Standard is editorially independent and the opinions expressed are not those of the RCN or of the contributor's employing organisation unless specifically stated.