DoH consults on future of nursing careers

Nursing careers should be based around five patient pathways in the future, according to the DoH’s Modernising Nursing Careers consultation published last week.

The consultation, Towards a Framework for Post-Registration Nursing Careers, suggests that nurses should ‘major’ in one pathway and ‘minor’ in the others. The five pathways are:

• Children, family and public health
• First contact, access and urgent care
• Supporting long term care
• Acute and critical care
• Mental health and psychosocial care.

Nurses would be able to move between pathways throughout their career, providing they had the appropriate skills, the document says. All nurses would be expected to provide holistic care and possess skills in key areas such as health promotion, end-of-life care, prevention of long-term conditions and safeguarding vulnerable groups.

The DoH proposes that nurses would move from ‘novice to expert’ along one of the pathways as they gain skills and experience. Those with the most advanced skills would manage patients with the most complex need or lead multi-skilled teams.

‘It will be possible for those nurses who want to, and who are competent to do so, to move rapidly through their pathway,’ the document says.

The consultation says there should be a ‘clear relationship between job title, level of practice, contribution and educational attainment.’

It adds that the DoH believes it is important that there are standards for nurses practising at an advanced level so that patients know these nurses have a specific set of high-level skills. However, it says that it is up to the NMC and other key groups to decide whether advanced practice is regulated.

Specialist nurses should also have a standardised set of skills, knowledge and competence, the document says. Although it adds that specialist nursing is being considered under a different strand of Modernising Nursing Careers.

The consultation says that further work is also needed to determine whether specialist practitioner qualifications, such as health visiting, school nursing and district nursing, are the most appropriate model for community nursing specialties.

Chief nursing officer Chris Beasley said the consultation should be considered in tandem with the NMC’s review of pre-registration education.

Nurses can respond by completing a questionnaire attached to the consultation, both of which can be downloaded here. The consultation closes on 15 February 2008.

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