A job profile that describes nurses as ‘support’ for doctors and other medical staff has been taken down by the University and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS).
UCAS faced online backlash for saying nurses ‘provide support to doctors and other medical staff, take blood and urine samples’ in its online role description for nursing, which it has since vowed to rewrite with help from experts.
Professor of Nursing at the University of York Paul Galdas brought the portrayal to light on Twitter when he tweeted a link to the job profile and urged nurses to ‘collectively challenge UCAS on their current job profile for nursing’.
‘Compare and contrast the description of nursing from UCAS and the NMC,’ chief executive of the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) Andrea Sutcliffe added, commenting on the job profile on Twitter.
In contrast, the NMC recognises the ‘vital role’ nurses playing in ‘providing, leading and coordinating’ compassionate, evidence-based and person-centred care in its own description, Ms Sutcliffe pointed out.
Picture: The original UCAS job profile description of nursing, which has since been taken down.
Ruth May, chief nursing officer for England, also said that she was ‘already on the case’ as nurses and other parties took to Twitter to challenge the portrayal, while chief nurse for Health Education England Mark Radford said he had 'joined with many other senior nurses across the system and have co-signed a letter to UCAS to offer our expertise.'
He said the focus of the letter would be on the 'vital role' registered nurses play in 'providing, leading and coordinating care that is evidence-based, compassionate and person-centred.'
'They work autonomously, and in interdisciplinary teams in order to respond to the impact and demands of nursing,' he said. 'Nurses work in schools, communities, prisons, nursing homes, research centres, hospitals – and many other settings.
'Nurses diagnose, prescribe, perform surgery, undertake cutting-edge research, advance population health outcomes – and above all, they advocate for our patients and people who use services.'
Nursing is 'misunderstood and misrepresented'
Professor Galdas told Nursing in Practice that he decided to call on fellow nurses to challenge UCAS on its job description as ‘nursing is perhaps one of the most misunderstood and misrepresented careers in our country’.
He criticised ‘misrepresentations and stereotypes that do not recognise the expert, evidence-based care’ in nursing and ‘detract from efforts to encourage more people to choose a career in nursing.’
He continued: ‘If we’re to meet the healthcare challenges now and in the future, it’s critical that the important contribution nurses make to the promotion of health, health protection and the prevention of ill health is recognised.’
Nurses should have ‘critical discussions about nursing, its portrayal, and its place within modern healthcare to ensure we’re not side-lined from important decisions,’ he added.
Student nurse Craig Davidson, who also tweeted UCAS about the job description, told Nursing in Practice that the misrepresentation particularly 'worried' him as UCAS 'is often the first portal potential nursing students have'.
Arguing that the description 'undermines what we have been doing to showcase nursing as a modern, diverse profession', he continued: 'It perpetuates the doctors' ‘handmaidens’ myth, whereas nursing is an autonomous profession who work as part of the multi-disciplinary team, providing, co-ordinating and often leading care.
'The description is over-simplistic, focusing only on clinical practice and making no reference to the other three pillars of nursing: leadership, education and research. The current description is also too task-centric and does nothing to encompass the four fields of nursing, particularly mental health and learning disabilities nursing. It does not focus on the emotional intelligence required to be a nurse.
'Additionally, the description focuses on looking after those “sick or injured”, completing omitting the move of nursing towards public health promotion and nurses empowering society to maintain and improve health and wellbeing.'
Mr Davidson said he appreciated the 'prompt response' from UCAS and said he hoped they will work with chief nursing officers, the Royal College of Nursing, Council of Deans, the NMC and nursing academics 'to highlight what modern nursing actually is'.
Andrea Sutcliffe said that there is 'no excuse for UCAS getting its description of nursing so badly wrong and I am pleased to hear it has agreed to change the wording'.
She continued: 'Nurses play a vital role in leading, coordinating and providing autonomous care that’s compassionate, evidence-based and person-centred.'
Dr Katerina Kolyva, executive director of the Council of Deans, which represents nursing faculties at universities, said she would ‘be in touch’ with UCAS about rewriting the profile, while the NMC said it would 'lend a hand'.
A spokesperson for the Council of Deans confirmed that they 'will be working with other organisations to ensure that the information provided by UCAS reflects the level, breadth and depth of nursing careers.'
A spokesperson for UCAS said: ‘It’s clear that our current role profile for nurses doesn’t reflect the amazing work that nurses across the country do each day, and we welcome the feedback we’ve recently received.
‘We want to make sure that students considering their future options have up-to date information about all different careers available to them.
‘We’re currently updating all of our job profiles and are in touch with nursing experts to help us make sure that we better reflect the roles and responsibilities of nurses today.’
UCAS have added a line on the web page that originally contained the description to inform students that it is updating the information ‘to better reflect nursing today’. This is the web page at the time of writing: