Changing how the world thinks about nursing

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Our executive director's letter to Minette Marrin about her comments that nurses don't need to be all that bright (Our petiiton is now closed)

Dear Ms. Marrin: I am writing in response to your Sunday Times columns of November 15, 2009 ("Oh nurse, your degree is a symptom of equality disease") and August 30, 2009 ("Fallen angels: the nightmare nurses protected by silence"). In these columns you attack plans to require that all U.K. nurses have university degrees, which you say would exclude those who would make "excellent" nurses even though they are "not particularly academic" or "not particularly bright." You also argue that degrees inhibit good nursing, because they produce nurses who are not necessarily "too posh to wash," but who are not much good at it, with their heads full of all that irrelevant theory. You seem to think that nurses should not seek to be considered "professionals." However, nursing is already an autonomous profession, and it is more about thinking than "washing." It is a distinct health care science led by thousands of scholars with doctorates in nursing. No one can be an "excellent" nurse unless he is also "bright," because good nursing requires advanced health care knowledge and critical thinking skills. Nurses do provide important physical care and they should display compassion, but they must also initiate and administer complex treatments, monitor patients for subtle changes in conditions, teach patients how to regain health or live with their conditions, and advocate for patients with a range of other professionals, including physicians. In these ways, nurses save lives and improve patient outcomes every day. Nurses who lack advanced training or intellect cannot do that work. How do you think nurses make what you call their "important clinical observations"? The argument against nursing education is based on the false assumption that nursing is mainly about physical labor and hand-holding. But in an increasingly complex care environment in which physicians and others have graduate degrees, nurses cannot provide expert direct care or advocate effectively for patients without advanced skills. Please try to learn what nursing actually is before you make further statements that serve only to mislead the public about the nature and value of the profession. Thank you.