Page last updated at 16:57 GMT, Monday, 28 April 2008 17:57 UK

Is nursing still the caring profession?

By Nick Triggle
BBC News at the RCN conference, Bournemouth

Eileen Milne
Eileen Milne says nursing is becoming highly specialised

Nurses are increasingly coming under attack. Patients groups say they are too busy to see to their basic needs such as eating and washing, while politicians have labelled them lazy and grubby. What is happening to nursing?

As the job title suggests, elderly care rehab nurse Eileen Milne works with pensioners, but in many ways she is at the cutting edge of NHS care.

Ms Milne, who works in a hospital in Dorset, looks after people who have had strokes and those recovering from hip and knee operations.

Like many nurses these days she finds herself increasingly questioned by patients and their relatives.

"Nowadays, the aim is to get people moving and out of bed so they can return home as quickly as possible.

"But I can often find myself having to explain to the relatives of patients why I am pushing them.

"The thing is medicine has advanced so much these days that people are recovering much more quickly and much more fully than they were before."

And it is because of this advancement that Ms Milne believes the public are questioning nurses more.

Making progress?

Earlier this week, Patient Concern accused nurses of losing touch with the job by ignoring a patient's basic needs as they take on more responsibility in their specialist roles.

I see nurses entering the profession today that do not have the same motivation as some of my older colleagues - they do not do it because they love nursing, they do not care in the way we do
Flake Giscor
Neo-natal nurse, London

And it comes after Tory peer Lord Mancroft recently called nurses lazy, grubby and drunken during a debate in the House of Lords.

Ms Milne, who has been a nurse since the 1970s, says: "Yes, we do find ourselves criticised, but sometimes I think people just don't understand how specialised and personalised care is becoming.

"There are some very good people coming into the profession.

"I guess what we are seeing with people being quite vocal is a reflection of the way society is going.

"People are more quick to questions things - and that is not necessarily a bad thing."

However, other nurses disagree the attacks are a consequence of progress. Diane-Louise John, a community nurse in Essex, believes the NHS as a system is putting too much pressure on nurses, leaving them open to criticism.

She visits people at home and is given 15 minute or 30 minutes slots in which to see them.

"Naturally some people have complex needs and take much longer to see, but the system does not reflect this.

"On the one hand, we have managers saying you must do this and then you have your code of conduct saying patient care is paramount.

"I always put patient care first, but it really leaves nurses stuck in the middle."

Being spoilt

But Flake Giscor, a neo-natal nurse based in London, has some sympathy with suggestions that the ethos of nurses has changed over the years.

She first started working in the NHS in 1971, but after spending time nursing in her native Nigeria, she believes staff in the health service should be more realistic.

"I think we expect too much. In a way we have been spoilt by all the money invested in the service.

"I see nurses entering the profession today that do not have the same motivation as some of my older colleagues.

"They do not do it because they love nursing, they do not care in the way we do and because of that they leave to work elsewhere. That can give other nurses a bad name."


SEE ALSO
Anger over grubby nurses 'slur'
29 Feb 08 |  Somerset

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