Friday, 27 May 2011


I know from one or two responses I have had in the past, and from reactions to former blogger Dr Crippen, that any criticism of our nursing colleagues is likely to generate a hostile response. In particular, questioning the wisdom and value of the nursing degree gets one the cyber equivalent of a poke in the eye.

But what the fuck is happening to nursing? And why? The media are awash with stories at the moment about the appallingly low standards of nursing care being given to our patients, particularly the elderly.

These failings have been highlighted by the Care Quality Commission who have criticised nursing care, using the damning phrase, “a failure  to attend to the most basic requirements of care” In one Trust they found doctors prescribing water to ensure patients had enough to drink. When you read this catalogue of failings in the Independent article it is clear that these are not isolated incidents.

It is easy to suggest that perhaps the media are blowing the problem out of proportion, but the stories are confirmed by our own experiences. I recently heard from a colleague who, during a ward round, came across an elderly blind patient whose breakfast had been placed down out of her reach. He was so appalled he interrupted the round and sat down to feed her himself. The nurses seemed to him unmoved.

There is no doubt in my mind that there is a profound difference in attitude between nurses who qualified recently, and those who qualified 20 years ago or more. The caring ethos seems to be fast disappearing. I have no evidence that the introduction of the nursing degree is in any way responsible, but it certainly has not led to improvements. The public are in no doubt however. To quote one unhappy relative “Because nurses are educated to degree level, they are contemptuous of low-level care. They think it’s beneath them.”
There is no doubt that reduction in nurse staffing levels, as happened in Stafford, is in part responsible for reductions in levels of care. But there is also a marked change in the attitude and ethos of our nursing colleagues that is frequently remarked upon, particularly by older nurses themselves, who are often scathing of their younger colleagues degrees.

Perhaps it is time to think again about how our nurses are trained.


  1. I think your final full paragraph encapsulates the problem - yet does not look deep enough to fully understand the complexities of operating as a nurse today.

    Perhaps it might be helpful and informative if you read Militant Medical Nurses past posts on her blog.

    It is true that her style of angry writing is not every ones cup of tea - certainly not mine and although her style appeared to resonate with colleagues in a similar position as she, this style and continuous praise of degree nursing and rubbishing those who were not, her vehement onslaught on those who questioned her beliefs - non degree nurses, patients, relatives and indeed anyone with a contrary opinion - lost her important allies.

    That aside - she spoke the truth doc in that serious qualified understaffing has ramifications and patients will and do indeed suffer. The little nurses enjoying a natter at the nurses station will be HCAs and the nurse at the computer will be a qualified nurse completing required paperwork - which as we all know is more important than nursing itself, that is, according to management.

    It is also true that younger folk have different values from us oldies. Young degree nurses, non-degree nurses and HCAs appear (to me) to be self-interested, rude and have problems with their conscience - in that they don't seem to have one. I realise this is a gross generalisation and yes it is, so therefore would state that there are many good, kind and caring folk in nursing who exist within this 'age' group.

    Furthermore these attitudes, self-interest and sometimes downright rudeness also exist within the medical profession - again especially the younger generation. There is many a time - I am thinking GPs here as I am not hospital based - I have given them a mental two finger salute while spitting imaginary blood.

    Of course hospital docs (including the new rude variety) are not continually on the shop floor and do not understand the ramifications of understaffing leading to low moral - a patient will not be happy if the nurse is not happy - and the collusion of scapegoating nurses among (some) doctors who look but don't see and managers intent on slashing budgets.

    Until the real problem is addressed - serious understaffing, low staff moral and tolerance of nurses and HCAs who are in the wrong job as they patently don't care - it is unlikely things will change. Yet again, I will add that this uncaring attitued also presents in doctors.

    So doc - we should work together in sorting out this problem - not scapegoat and play into management's hands.

    Anna :o]

  2. I was not trying to scapegoat. What I was trying to point out is that, whatever the reason the reputation of the nursing profession is going down the pan. Are you old enough to remember a TV nursing drama called "Angels"? Slightly emetic title I know but it shows the image that nurses had 20 years ago, an image now lost.

  3. Dr Zorro

    "What I was trying to point out is that, whatever the reason the reputation of nurses is going down the pan."

    How true this is. I would reiterate that as long as this collusion amongst management (for it suits their purpose and hides the real reason of understaffing, etc) some docs who look but don't see, the media - God bless especially the Dail Mail, and until quite recently The Patients Association the reputation of nurses will continue to plummet - and they will be powerless to stop it for they are easy targets.

    I do remember "Angels" but would ask you to consider that safe staffing existed then, hence nurses had time to fulfil their role as angels.

    Anna :o]