Home > General Politics, Terrible Tories > Independent commentator calls for higher hospital death rates

Independent commentator calls for higher hospital death rates

Mary Dejevsky of the Independent probably has a degree of some kind, so she thinks it’s ok to have a clever idea.  

To reduce what she calls the “the mayhem on the streets” of the student protests, we shouldn’t bother about policing; we should just have less students.

Her principal rationale, applauded by the usual suspects, is that university degrees aren’t what they were in her day:

Much of the recent university expansion reflects a dubious “academicisation” of skills, as nursing, accountancy and, yes, journalism have become more and more graduate professions. Reversing this trend, far from lowering standards, could have the effect of producing a workforce that is actually better – more quickly, more cheaply, and more appropriately – trained.

Well, I’ll let journalism and accountancy fight their own corner, but on the matter of nursing degrees I’m happy to offer Ms Dejevsky a word or two of comment, the word or two being “Check out your facts before you talk ignorant reactionary shite, Mary Dejevsky”.

Degree-trained nurses are much better at their primary role – keeping people alive and helping them getting better – that non-degree nurses. 

Here are the facts:

There is a growing body of evidence that shows that BSN [nurse degree] graduates bring unique skills to their work as nursing clinicians and play an important role in the delivery of safe patient care:

In an article published in Health Services Research in August 2008 that examined the effect of nursing practice environments on outcomes of hospitalized cancer patients undergoing surgery, Dr. Christopher Friese and colleagues found that nursing education level was significantly associated with patient outcomes.

Nurses prepared at the baccalaureate-level were linked with lower mortality and failure-to-rescue rates. The authors conclude that “moving to a nurse workforce in which a higher proportion of staff nurses have at least a baccalaureate-level education would result in substantially fewer adverse outcomes for patients.”

In a study released in the May/June 2008 issue of the Journal of Nursing Administration, Dr. Linda Aiken and her colleagues confirmed the findings from their landmark 2003 study (see below) which show a strong link between RN education level and patient outcomes.  [They] found that every 10% increase in the proportion of BSN nurses on the hospital staff was associated with a 4% decrease in the risk of death.

In the January 2007 issue of the Journal of Advanced Nursing, a new study is titled “Impact of Hospital Nursing Care on 30-day Mortality for Acute Medical Patients” found that baccalaureate-prepared nurses have a positive impact on lowering mortality rates. ……[F]indings indicated that a 10% increase in the proportion of baccalaureate prepared nurses was associated with 9 fewer deaths for every 1,000 discharged patients.”

In a study in the March/April 2005 issue of Nursing Research, Dr. Carole Estabrooks and her colleagues at the University of Alberta found that baccalaureate prepared nurses have a positive impact on mortality rates following an examination of more than 18,000 patient outcomes at 49 Canadian hospitals….. The Impact of Hospital Nursing Characteristics on 30-Day Mortality confirms the findings from Dr. Linda Aiken’s landmark study in September 2003.

In a study published in the September 24, 2003 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Dr. Linda Aiken and her colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania identified a clear link between higher levels of nursing education and better patient outcomes……In hospitals, a 10 percent increase in the proportion of nurses holding BSN degrees decreased the risk of patient death and failure to rescue by 5 percent……

Evidence shows that nursing education level is a factor in patient safety and quality of care. As cited in the report When Care Becomes a Burden released by the Milbank Memorial Fund in 2001, two separate studies conducted in 1996 – one by the state of New York and one by the state of Texas – clearly show that significantly higher levels of medication errors and procedural violations are committed by nurses prepared at the associate degree and diploma levels as compared with the baccalaureate level…..

University-based nurse education is not about ‘academication’, whatever Dejevsky means by that.

It’s about producing good nurses, who can think for themselves.  Dejevksy’s comments are an insult to the nursing profession, in line with previous insults from the likes of Melanie Phillips and Iain Dale, and reflect the kind of ignorance and poor research skills that would, I suspect, find her failing a journalism degree.

I did not do a nursing degree, but I can tell you I’d have been a better nurse if I had had the opportunity, because I’d have learned not just how to do, but why I was doing, and to think through my actions (in fact I developed that kind of conceptual ability through my trade union activities more than through the ‘churn them out’ nurse training of my day).

Mary Dejevksy should stick to what she’s good at, whatever that may be, and let higher education get on with what it’s good at.

  1. November 28, 2010 at 11:10 am

    I don’t think this is anything to do with nursing getting ‘degree’ status. Surely it is just that you are spending more time training nurses to a higher standard.

    Surely it wouldn’t have mattered if this level of training was funded directly by the NHS and done once they had been hired at the age of 16, in NHS owned training academies created specifically for the job. That sort of things works for the police.

    That way nurses could have been earning a living, providing care and getting a high level of training – rather than running up crippling debts that will hang round their neck like a millstone for a good part of their life.

    There is a touch of university envy, which means that universities are rapidly becoming general purpose technical colleges training people to do jobs.

  2. karenwillliams8@nhs.net
    November 30, 2010 at 3:42 pm

    I am a nurse I did the traditional nurse training back in the 80s – the training was 3 years then and it has not changed for the majority of student nurse now. Most of them do a diploma of higher education which takes 3 years – there are no tuition fees and they receive a bursuary.
    The main change was some years back when the education moved to university and student nurses were not included in the staffing numbers for wards. The academic content was also increased
    I think these changes were a good thing – health care has become more complex. When i was trained we were often used a pair of hands with little time for training.
    The minium age has always been 18 – in my opinion 16 would be to young. I started my training at 18 in retrospect more life experience would have been better

    A smaller number do degree courses .

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