This afternoon I’ll be joining colleagues to interview potential students of mental health nursing. I imagine I’ll meet a variety of candidates: young people who are still at (or have just left) school, others who are looking for a second (or third) career, and others again who have considerable experience in caring work gained through employment as health care assistants or similar. The range of educational backgrounds people have is likely to be varied. Some may have A levels, or undergraduate degrees (often in the humanities or social sciences). Others may have (or be studying for) Access qualifications via their enrolment at colleges of further education.
From my accumulated experiences of interviewing in this context I expect that most, if not all, of the candidates I meet today will have thought very carefully about their applications. I expect them to be enthused about the prospect of learning and practising, and informed about what this involves. I expect people to demonstrate an interest in others, to be inquisitive and engaged, and to be motivated by a desire to help.
I also imagine that candidates will be aware of today’s proceedings taking place in a context of heightened scrutiny: of nurses, their roles, and their preparation. Cynon Valley MP Ann Clwyd, for example, has had strong things to say about nurses and nursing following the death of her husband at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff. To repeat what I’ve said before on this blog: the fact that nurses now qualify with undergraduate degrees does not make them any less compassionate than those without. To me, the idea that there might be some kind of automatic, inverse, relationship between education and capacity to care makes no sense whatsoever. For those interested, here’s a very thoughtful piece touching on some of this on the notsobigsociety blog.