The faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Southampton is proud to be training all newly qualified nurses at degree level.

In 2009, this article was published that hypothesised that student nurses training at degree level could become ‘too posh to wash’ and lack the basic compassion required to provide patients with intimate care. It argues that students are now trained to a more academic level and skills such as dignity and compassion cannot be taught in an academic setting. Worryingly since this article was published there have been more similar accounts mentioned; some even including testimonials from current student nurses that state that being ‘too posh to wash’ is a practice that they have seen and been taught.

Speaking for myself I have found this to not be the case. The training provided by the School of Nursing teaches students about compassion and dignity at a basic level in lectures. Not only do we write assignments detailing the relevance and importance of these traits we are assessed on our ability to practice them by a qualified nurse in a hospital/community team/care environment half of the year. It’s important for nursing that we are taught to a higher education degree level because that means we can think critically and exercise judgement, thanks to a solid knowledge base. Without this standard of education we wouldn’t have the courage to stand up to bad practice for fear of having lack of knowledge highlighted.

On placement, students are mentored by a fully qualified nurse but are expected to lead care and decision making as the course progresses. A degree allows student nurses to explore the decision making that isn’t always easy and that may include ethical issues. Contrary to opinion, a degree actually makes nursing students take a more holistic approach as, during training, we learn about health promotion, cultural differences and are given lectures on the other fields.

It’s all about perception, the media seems to report more on tragic nursing failures, such as at Stafford Hospital, than celebrate nurses for what they are and the care that they provide. Many newly qualified nurses have years of experience as a healthcare assistant prior to starting their training and many Schools of Nursing only accept students on the basis of relevant experience to the course. Nurses are taught skills such as care co-ordination that require them to focus on patients in a different way to physical care but that doesn’t mean they don’t believe that they are equally important. Healthcare assistants are sometimes more readily available for the washing and dressing of patients which may mean they undertake this task more but many nurses are wistful about this and wish that they had the time to be more involved in these tasks.

One of the greatest privileges of being a student nurse is helping elderly patients with their personal care.

2nd year University of Southampton Nursing Student

Concerns that newly qualified nurses are being trained to be ‘too posh to wash’ are valid as this would in certain situations leave patients neglected and uncared for. As a student nurse from the University of Southampton I am proud to wash and provide basic care, I just hope that when I qualify I have the time to do so. Experience and knowledge gained from a degree course makes nurses more compassionate towards patients which can only be a good thing.

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  • Elizabeth Coates

    So true! My aunt trained as a nurse at Southampton thirty five years ago and she now works at the hospital in Eastleigh. She’s just recently done a module for further training. That already suggests the nursing degree is useful for current practitioners! She told me that the nursing students were hard working and diligent, doing exactly what they did in her day, but with a more academic basis. We can’t expect medicine to progress when the front line isn’t prepared, can we? Great article Alice!