Comment & Opinion

Brain Booth, RGN

I am not special, I’m a nurse.

We want nurses who can do the job. Experience of different specialties is a plus, not a minus.

I am unashamedly without a degree;

having helped a fair few ‘graduate’ students with their course work, and in previous lives, had a lot to do with ‘nurse academics’, I wouldn’t waste my time away from practice on the low levels of thought and analytic skills expected from our new degree level entry system.

Our son did a degree in history, at one of our better institutions, and I would read his stuff (editorially only, as in breaking down very long sentences, where his passion for the subject under discussion led him to write 63- word sentences. Can’t think where he gets it from). 

What he had to produce very week would have some nursing students I’ve mentored crying ‘harassment’ if they had to do it over a full term.

And I would have a problem with some child/lecturer, with almost zero practical experience, telling me how to nurse.

When I retire – which might be sooner than later – I will sign up with the Open University. I’m torn between archaeology, English literature and history.

Sorry – but I feel better for that. Please read on, if you have the time and/or inclination.

To the chase:

I am looking for a new job, in the independent sector, the NHS being dead - and it is a dispiriting process.

I have had excellent experiences with some recruitment agencies; but two have used the identical phrase: ’your CV is intimidating to employers’. One of them sent my details to a separate company, who offered to reduce it to two pages (from three – one short paragraph and a list of jobs. They got a bit excited about including various awards and other ephemera that came up as we talked; I wish I had the money, just to see how they could cut whilst adding). And this ‘service’ would be all for a mere £250.

After an interview which went well, I was informed that I was ‘overqualified’. Then it happened again, soon after.

(There was another one where I thought I’d nailed it, but ‘regional office’ vetoed my appointment because I don’t drive, although it wasn’t a stated requirement.)

The NHS (RIP) could not do that, unless it was an obvious requirement – say, as a community nurse - and they would have to put it in the job description. In this case, it seems I was, in fact, ‘underqualified’.

As an employer, anyone with a varied CV went to the top of my pile.

It was once practice – and now outlawed, rightly, because it could be, and was, abused – to call a referee before interview if they dropped a negative hint about the candidate. Generally, I always felt that these would be people I should judge for myself, face to face; the reasons for their being disliked might turn out – and in my experience, often did - to be why they are the people you need. Now pre-interview references are off-limits, and we nurses seem to have accepted that the whole procedure should be given over to HR anyway.

Big – no, huge – mistake. How can someone who came from Top Shop spot the clues in a nurse’s CV?

I can’t remember when a colleague told me this, but pre-1966, I heard that matrons generally provided three kinds of reference:

Nurse Smith is an excellent nurse.

Nurse Smith is an excellent nurse, who works well under supervision.

Nurse Smith is an excellent nurse, who works well under close supervision.

I digress. No surprises there, if you’ve endured my stuff over the years.

What’s going on?

I’ve written a few articles, chapters and books; but the only formal qualifications –other than my proudly held RGN - I have ENB 941 (care of the older person) and 998 (teaching and assessment in clinical practice).

I am not special, I’m a nurse.

We want nurses who can do the job. Experience of different specialties is a plus, not a minus.

Wake up.

A post-script;  At the risk of angering some PCNR readers: I cling to the idea that nurses need a couple of years working in an environment where they are supported and taught, before they are let loose, alone, in people’s homes. But that’s another article.