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Views And Reviews Acute Perspective

David Oliver: Nurses, degrees, and the workforce crisis

BMJ 2019; 365 doi: (Published 19 June 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;365:l4224
  1. David Oliver, consultant in geriatrics and acute general medicine
  1. Berkshire
  1. davidoliver372{at}
    Follow David on Twitter: @mancunianmedic

The biggest threat to the NHS’s existence is its workforce crisis. And, although modern healthcare is a team venture reliant on interdisciplinary working, nursing is the NHS’s most numerous, visible, and trusted clinical workforce group. One with a workforce crisis even more pressing than that in medicine.1

Against this backdrop, the zombie trope I’ve mentioned before in this column2—that “overeducated nurses” lead to declining standards of care—has made an unwelcome return in parts of the media. It seems a peculiarly British obsession, as graduate nursing is established in most developed nations—but it’s hard to kill off.

In a 2014 study in nine European countries, every 10% increase in degree educated nurses was associated with a 7% reduction in patient mortality. England had one of the lowest percentages of graduate nurses in …

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