Nursing does not receive adequate status and pay due to antiquated views of the profession, a new study has suggested.
The study, commissioned by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and carried out by Oxford Brookes University, states that the “old-fashioned view that caring for others is a feminine characteristic still persists in British society”.
According to the study’s authors, this has contributed to the suppression of nurses’ wages and working conditions for generations, the study’s authors claim. Some nine out of 10 nurses in the UK are women. Their weekly pay is on average £15.42 per hour - less than a third of that of doctors and dentists.
‘This report is an important step in challenging and changing perceptions about nursing. In reality, nursing is a complex and skilled profession yet too often nurses feel their voices are unheard and their value unrecognised,’ said Rachael McIlroy, RCN Senior Research Lead.
‘We hope that this research will spark a conversation within the nursing profession, among nursing staff, employers, regulators and policy makers about the critical role played by the largest health care occupation in the country and how we better value it in terms of status and pay. The RCN is ready to kick off this conversation about nursing and the impact of the workforce being mostly female and we hope our members and others will join in this exciting debate.’
The study’s authors, from the Centre for Diversity Policy Research and Practice and the Oxford School of Nursing and Midwifery – both at Oxford Brookes University - and the RCN, found that not only do nurses routinely take on tasks that would have previously been the preserve of doctors, but are constantly pushing forward advances in nursing practice. However, their pay does not reflect this. Additionally, as nursing is a graduate profession, with all new nurses required to have degrees, reflecting the high-level technical and clinically skilled nature of the work.
‘Concerns were also raised regarding the well-being of nurses, primarily because of high levels of work intensity and unsafe staffing levels. In terms of career progression, increasing numbers are choosing flexibility over career development largely because of a lack of choice or control over working patterns or working hours, a paucity of family care provision and lack of support for training and development,’ said Dr Kate Clayton-Hathway, Research Fellow at Oxford Brookes University. ‘Nursing suffers from an image that fails to match the reality of a professional life defined by high level technical, emotional and cognitive skills. This image, which is underpinned by gendered notions of nursing and nurses, will always stand in the way of any efforts to improve the standing and attractiveness of nursing as a career.’