RCN head Janet Davies defends nursing as a graduate profession

Janet Davies was talking on a special edition of Radio 4's Woman's Hour 

RCN general secretary Janet Davies has defended nursing being a graduate profession and highlighted the breadth of skills needed for the job. 

In an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, Ms Davies said it was ‘absolutely right’ that trainee nurses should undertake degree level programmes when asked if nurses having degrees can cause division within the workforce.

She added: ‘One thing a degree and attending university gives you is the space to reflect and it also gives you the ability to challenge.’

The programme was marking the RCN's centenary.

When asked if nurses would now delegate a task such as washing a patient to healthcare assistants, Ms Davies said this remained an important part of the nursing role.

She said: ‘What happens when you wash somebody, it is not just about getting someone clean. It is the interaction you have with that person and washing someone is a really intimate activity and it is a fantastic opportunity to get to know that person you are caring for, what their concerns are, what their symptoms might be.

‘It is important that nurses can spot progress or any deterioration or any issues with that person. You are not just doing one thing at a time.’ 

She added: ‘There is something about this push always towards separating nursing into a series of tasks that totally misunderstands nursing.’

The RCN head said nursing is about having knowledge and understanding of what needs to be done, physical skills and compassion and emotional resilience. 

She admitted that the RCN hasn’t been able to achieve the salaries for nurses which it believes they deserve but she said it has been consistently campaigning on pay and providing evidence to the independent NHS pay review body. 

Recruiting and retaining nurses remains a real problem, she said.

The programme, broadcast yesterday (May 3) and available as a podcast, also featured a group of nurses who trained 60 years ago.

They were reunited at the site of the former Middlesex Hospital in central London, where they trained.

One of the former nurses reminisced that it had been tough work but that the group had been extremely well looked after by the university. 

Click here to download the podcast.