Nurse week at the Guardian?
April 7, 2004 -- This week the Guardian (U.K.) ran at least three important articles dealing with nursing issues, including an article about the Royal College of Nursing governing council's decision to try to move the profession to an "all graduate" educational requirement, a piece about a survey of nurses indicating that nurse short-staffing plays a disturbing role in the rising number of hospital-acquired infections, and a hopeful story by a psychiatric nurse about mental health programs on which she has worked in genocide-ravaged Rwanda.
On April 5, Hélène Mulholland's "Nursing union votes for degree-only training" reported that the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) had voted to "place nursing on an all graduate route" in a bid to win "equal status with other healthcare professions." In particular, supporters of the move reportedly argue that it is necessary because of the "evolving role" of nursing, as well as "a new emphasis on research." Though the relatively brief article does not go into it, shorter nursing programs typically include little if any emphasis on research. The piece notes that the decision will likely provoke "furious debate" at the RCN's upcoming general meeting, where the broader membership last year narrowly overturned the same decision. Opponents of the move argue that it could deter qualified candidates from pursuing nursing at a time of shortage.
An April 1 "Press Association" piece, "Hygiene failures blamed for spread of hospital superbug," discussed factors in the increase in hospital-acquired infections, including the "superbug MSRA," as indicated in a recent poll of more than 800 nurses. Respondents in the poll pointed to staff shortages and time pressures, as well as inadequate hand-washing, misuse of antibiotics, and the privatization of hospital cleaning services. According to the article, each year about 100,000 English people acquire infections in hospitals, resulting in about 5,000 deaths and a cost of £1 billion. The executive director of the RCN stressed how difficult it was for nurses to achieve the necessary infection control standards in light of the "constant pressure of working on short staffed wards, and caring for acutely ill patients."
Nurse Sue Piddington's April 7 "Repairing Rwanda's troubled minds" explains that, in the wake of that nation's horrific 1994 genocide, mental health is "high on the agenda of education," so in her view there will likely be adequate "specialised nursing staff" to care for the nation's psychic wounds. Piddington describes some of the mental health care and patients she observed during the time she spent in Rwanda as a trainer, including one recovering victim who was forced to hide under piles of bodies to conceal herself from killers, and another man who managed to work his way from a refugee camp to graduate from nursing school with a "grand distinction"--having trained as a mental health specialist. Piddington was left with an impression of surprising resilience.