In the government's initial response to the Francis report into care failings in Mid Staffordshire, it has been made clear all applicants to nursing programmes will need to prove they are compassionate and caring by working as a nursing assistant for a year.
This might appear to be a sound solution to the concern that some nurses may not have the right attributes when starting their training. However let's consider the logistics. We will need to create thousands of nursing assistant posts to satisfy the requirement or there will be no applicants with one year of experience.
Assistants are likely to stay for just a year, creating considerable annual churn in the system, with post holders leaving at the same time, coinciding with the start of the academic year. There will be a disproportionate administrative burden in the recruitment, induction and training of the nursing assistants who stay for just one year.
There will no longer be school leavers applying to nursing because they will have to work as a nursing assistant for a year to meet entry requirements; by default nurse training will have been extended by a one year pre-entry probationary period and many will not be able to afford an additional year.
I believe it is possible to prove possession of the right attributes by other means, working at weekends or in school holidays in a nursing home, hospital or residential care home. There are applicants who may regularly care for a relative who can prove their caring skills in an informal setting.
At 16, I secured a weekend job as a ward orderly. I cleaned beds and lockers; I interacted with patients and worked with nurses to help feed those who required assistance. I loved every minute and knew I had chosen the right profession. My personal circumstances would have precluded me from working for a year in such a job after completing school and I would never have entered nursing. I wonder how many applicants would be similarly affected today?
Crystal Oldman, chief executive, Queen's Nursing Institute