It might be thought that I personally am unsympathetic to the idea that nursing training should be a degree course. Actually I am not, though I do have one reservation, which I will come to.
Degrees are given for all sorts of things including puppetry, surfing and the Klingon language. You can also find degree courses for such anti science as chiropracty and homeopathy. Nursing at least has the advantage of not being based on pseudo scientific bollocks, and is a profession highly valued by the general public, so why should they be denied university status education.
It has been argued that the change will attract fewer non academic types, and thus excludes many who would be good nurses. It is also suggested, by the RCN no less, that some of those now attracted into the degree course are not committed to the ethos of caring nursing.
The nursing unions and the general public seem unconvinced that this is a particularly good idea. I think these views are largely speculative.
My own view is that the whole thing is actually an irrelevance. In the past nurse training consisted of ward training, with regular release for formal teaching. The degree course consists of formal training, with regular release for ward work. Since there is, in neither system, an inflexible view on the relative proportions, the two systems in fact are identical. Certainly the content is different now than it was 20 years ago but that is inevitable given the advances in patient care that have occurred. Content and rigour of the course is something that can, and is addressed constantly, but this could just as easily have been achieved under the old system as a degree course. It is the contents that are important, not the packaging.
So why were the government so keen to make the change in nurse training? This where I have my reservation. I think it was a con.
In the past when nurses were trained vocationally they were considered employees, and paid accordingly. They also had the benefit of cheap, subsidised accommodation. In changing to a degree course there has been no improvement in training that could not have been achieved under the old system. But the government saves money because now nurses in training have to pay for their own training and for their keep, just like other students. They now have to face student loans, course fees and graduate tax, instead of drawing a wage. They consequently have a high drop out rate. That is the only material change. Nurses have been conned. They have been robbed. They have been taken as suckers. And some actually think they have been done a favour.