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New generation of nurses 'too posh to wash'
Last Updated: 2004-05-10 14:55:17 -0400 (Reuters Health)
By Tristan Jones
HARROGATE, England (Reuters) - A new generation of nurses who are "too posh to wash" are threatening traditional nursing practices by refusing to perform basic tasks, the leader of Britain's nurses' union, Beverly Malone, said Monday.
The changing status of women in society has made some nurses think they are above core activities like washing people's feet or backsides, Malone told a news conference at the Royal College of Nursing's (RCN) annual conference in Harrogate.
"Nursing in years gone by was associated with women's work and menial tasks, and women would only do certain levels of work relating to home care and babies' bottoms," she said.
"Women have moved up in the world and their status has changed. Now there is this assumption that if you become more professional then somehow you become too posh to wash."
The conference will discuss whether nurses should focus on treatment and technical nursing, leaving their caring role to less qualified health care assistants - a suggestion expected to be roundly defeated.
Nurses have taken on more specialized roles over recent years, including prescribing drugs and running chronic disease clinics. The conference voted Monday that nurses' managers should themselves be qualified nurses.
The RCN estimates that some 20 percent of junior doctors' work could be shifted to nurses and over 12 percent of nursing work given to health care assistants.
Jeremy Bore, a general nurse from Exeter in southern England, said he called for the debate because a significant minority of new nurses don't want to provide basic holistic care.
"I had a 10 minute debate with a student nurse who said, 'I do not wash people's bottoms, there are other people to do that,"' he said.
"Not doctors, not even priests become as intimate with patients as nurses. Nurses have got to come to grips with the deep philosophical concept that carrying someone else's shit is a privilege."
"Nurses have got to be clear that we are still the ones ultimately responsible and that we are always available to do things for our patients. If I become too posh to wash I should no longer be in the profession."
Janet Clay, a nursing sister in accident and emergency unit in Newport, South Wales, said graduate nurses were the most likely to consider themselves above basic treatment.
"There is a lot of attitude that: 'it is beneath me to do the bed pans'. But that is what basic nursing care is about," Clay said.
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