University move to all-degree nursing
From 2013 all new nurses will have to study to degree level, but the University of East Anglia is planning to phase out its nursing diplomas from as early as next September.
Health correspondent Kim Briscoe finds out how degree-educated nurses will benefit patients.
Each year the University of East Anglia (UEA) takes on 200 new student nurses, many of whom will stay and work in the region.
Currently about half of those opt for a three-year degree, while the other half study a three-year diploma, although some of these will convert to a degree mid-course.
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Last November, the Department of Health announced that nursing would become a degree-only profession for new entrants, in a bid to ensure nurses can meet the complex needs of patients and respond to increased responsibilities, such as having to write prescriptions.
While a 2013 deadline has been set, UEA is one of the few universities planning to offer only nursing degrees from next September.
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Professor Val Lattimer, head of the School of Nursing and Midwifery, believes the new degrees will help nurses to adapt to the way the NHS is likely to change in the coming years, with more care being carried out in the community.
The Nursing and Midwifery Council has just revealed its new guidelines on standards of nursing education, and the UEA is drawing up a new course for next year.
It will involve a slight shift towards learning in the community, working alongside other professionals such as phyisotherapists and social workers.
The degree courses also aim to foster independent learning, encourage more problem solving and include a research-based project.
Prof Lattimer, who is an expert in the changing nature of healthcare, said: 'This will help nurses to be more confident in their practice earlier on and it really is about investing in your career earlier.
'From a patient's point of view, graduate nurses will be good at communicating and very good at advocating for patients' needs and families needs in an interdisciplinary context.'
With many students facing huge increase sin tuition fees, the fact that at present tuition fees are met by the NHS could make nursing an attractive prospect for many. Add in a starting salary of �21,175 and it's no surprise the the UEA had 800 people visit a recent open day about nursing courses.
But when the announcement was made about all new nurses taking degrees, national newspapers reported concerns that graduates could be less willing to do menial tasks such as cleaning and helping frail patients eat their meals.
However, this is something that is strongly dismissed by Prof Lattimer.
'All evidence points in the other direction,' said Prof Lattimer. 'The very earliest degree programmes were at the University of Manchester and these were the nurses who stayed in clinical practice the longest. They were the ward managers and senior clinicians. There is no evidence nurses don't want to be directly involvved in patient care.'
Helen Bell, the school's director of admissions, also disagrees.
She said: 'We only select people who are genuinely interested in people's health and caring for them, and that includes washing them and taking them to the toilets and being interested in every aspect of their health.
'Nurses will still be doing all of those things, but they will be learning all of the anatomy and pharmacology to help them do more.'
The university holds taster days called 'So you want to be a nurse?'. The next of these will be held on March 30, 2011.
To apply online, visit www.uea.ac.uk/nam/taster-days. For more information about studying nursing at UEA, contact Matthew Gooch on 01603 597120, by email at Matthew.Gooch@uea.ac.uk or visit www.uea.ac.uk/nam.