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Made to measure – NMC education standards and compassionate care

Kath Sharples

“I have lost count of the articles, editorials and opinion pieces in national newspapers about the state of nursing and the perceived poor standard of nursing care. Such articles induce a heavy, sinking feeling in proud registered nurses and nurse educators.

“I imagined that current cohorts of nursing students undertaking their pre-registration programmes in the UK are worried by this negative publicity. They may well feel that their chosen profession has let them down and that the image of nursing in the press does not reflect the compassionate ideals they aspire to.

“Yet on further reflection, I see hope in these difficult times. I do not say this lightly – this is no time to be flippant or ignore the facts.

“The core of nursing has always been, and continues to be, care, compassion and communication. The Nursing and Midwifery Council endorses and reinforces this position through its essential skills clusters (see right), which are incorporated in the standards for pre-registration nursing education.

Care and compassion

“To be admitted to the register, nursing students are required to demonstrate competence as caring, compassionate nurses, with the knowledge and skill to communicate appropriately. Intentions, however, do not always equate to actions. If care and compassion are meant to be at the core of the profession, it is legitimate to ask why doubt is being cast on the standard of care nurses are delivering.

“The Florence Nightingale Foundation’s director, Elizabeth Robb, has argued that the issue is not whether nurses still care. She maintains that nurse-to-healthcare assistant ratios mean that nurses are finding it increasingly challenging to supervise unqualified staff and personally deliver the care that patients should expect.

Future leaders

“One solution is to ensure strong, empowered leadership at the point of care, with those in such roles given the authority to insist on and be held to account for individualised patient care.

“Nursing students are the leaders of the future. Not only are they learning the art of care, compassion and communication in the pre-registration programme, they are learning the knowledge, skill and professionalism that will be needed for empowered leadership at the point of care.

“Students are learning how to advocate, reflect, take decisions, and challenge and stand by decisions. They must take every opportunity to develop and practice these skills, as patients will rely on these same students to keep care, compassion and communication at the core of the profession for years to come.”

This article originally appeared in Nursing Standard, Feb 8, vol 23, 2012, pg 64.