Stop trying to dilute field-specific training in children’s nursing

Children and Young People’s Nurse Academics UK’s Debbie Fallon refutes calls for a rethink on field-specific training and wants to halt ‘genericism by stealth’

A children’s nurse interacts with a young patient, displaying that different nursing fields require specific skill sets
Picture: John Houlihan

In their Nursing Children and Younger People article Children’s nursing: is it time to rethink field-specific training? Edward Purssell and Rohit Sagoo invited us to ‘rethink’ field-specific training. They argue that the COVID-19 pandemic exposed children’s nurses as ill-equipped to care for adult patients, and that neither adult nor children’s nurses are ‘trained’ to care for those aged 16-24 years.

They suggest that, compared with other countries, our approach to nurse education produces an inflexible and inadequate workforce, and call for a return to a generic nursing programme that would, among other things, generate ‘free movement’ of nurses between adult and children’s services.

As academics who educate nurses to care for children and young people (CYP) our response is a reminder that the ‘generic’ nursing qualification idea is focused on adult nursing. And, along with Dan Warrender’s article NMC proficiency standards are an assault on mental health nursing, we despair at the dilution of field-specific content already caused by the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s (NMC) generically driven future nurse standards.

Safe transition between services

We also refute the notion that generic programmes lead to ‘lifelong’ decisions about specialising and recall how they disrupted workforce planning. Given current placement pressures, denying students a field-specific experience in favour of generic placements is unworkable and unethical.

Invoking the NHS Long Term Plan, Purssell and Sagoo suggest a generic programme would resolve a perceived care gap for 16-24 year olds and ensure safe transition between services. But they do not acknowledge that CYP and adult nurses already share and work towards this vision, and that many CYP remain under CYP services past 16 years to facilitate this.

We suggest that in response to all field-specific sceptics, the sub part of the NMC register should reflect that CYP nurses have the necessary education and experience, and so are best placed to care for CYP.

Some clarification of the NMC position on this debate would also help defend CYP nursing against further attempts at ‘genericism by stealth’.

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