Call Yourself a Nurse?
2 July 2021 | June Girvin
I’m a Nurse.
I call myself a Nurse because I qualified through three years study and a final examination and was awarded the title of Registered Nurse, and most importantly, I am currently on the Register of the UK Nursing and Midwifery Council. I am a regulated and accountable Registered Nurse. That’s the reason I can call myself a Registered Nurse.
Only when someone has undertaken the required education (a Bachelors or Masters degree today), has applied to and been accepted on to that register, can they call themselves a Registered Nurse. In order to continue to call themselves a Registered Nurse after that initial registration, a three yearly validation process is required and the annual payment of a substantial fee in order to stay ‘live’ on the Register. If someone’s registration lapses i.e., they stop practising, they don’t revalidate, they don’t pay their fee, or they are struck off for some serious disciplinary reason, then they can no longer call themselves a Registered Nurse. This is UK law.
But, and here is the really important thing – in the UK anyone can call themselves a Nurse. And that’s a problem.
It’s a problem because we rarely go around workplaces or caring for patients proclaiming that we are Registered Nurses. We are called ‘Nurse’, and a host of other titles with ‘Nurse’ in them. We respond to being called ‘Nurse’. It is the title ‘Nurse’ that is in common usage, ‘Nurse’ that the general public use to attract our attention, or to describe us, ‘Nurse’ that is the shorthand for a safe, competent, accountable, and professional practitioner of nursing. It is generally interpreted as being the contraction for Registered Nurse. If you say you are a Nurse, then most people will assume that you have the required education and the correct validations to be a Registered Nurse – with all the trust and safety assumptions that go with that.
Unfortunately, in those workplaces, we know that there are people in roles that have ‘Nurse’ in their title who aren’t actually nurses at all. They are probably a support worker or an associate or other helper role – all valuable within their own scope. They may have some specialist education, but they may have none, and they are not Registered Nurses yet their job title probably leads the public to believe they are. Hmmm. Apart from the ethics of such use of title, perhaps this is how we get the ‘50,000’ more nurses promised by Government? (Note that it is ‘nurses’ that are promised, not Registered Nurses).
We also know that there are unscrupulous people who set out to deceive by calling themselves a ‘Nurse’ – like the parliamentary candidate who referred to himself as a ‘Nurse’ in his campaigning but was forced to admit that he wasn’t actually a nurse, but a health care assistant. I suppose he thought calling himself a Nurse would help him win votes. And he could do so, with impunity. We also know that there are people who have been struck off the NMC Register who can continue to call themselves a Nurse, again with impunity.
It’s not against the law to say ‘I’m a Nurse’ when you are not. I think it should be.
I believe the title ‘Nurse’ should be legally protected for the sake of patient safety and patient trust. So that when someone needs a Nurse, that’s exactly what they get – a Registered Nurse – or at the very least, they are clearly told and made aware that the person in front of them is NOT a Registered Nurse. This could be done most simply by a job title that properly reflects what they are. It’s not a difficult thing to do, and it would be open, honest and transparent – who could possibly object?
I believe very strongly that the title ‘Nurse’, so long in common usage, has become synonymous with ‘Registered Nurse’ in the minds of the public. I believe because of that common and general interpretation that the title ‘Nurse’ should be protected and used only by those who are current Registered Nurses. To not do this is deceitful and potentially dangerous.
Professor Alison Leary has set up a government petition to get the title ‘Nurse’ protected and used only by Registered Nurses. You can follow the campaign on Twitter on #ProtectNurse and #PatientSafety.
You can find the petition here, it takes just two minutes to sign. I have signed it, and I hope you will too. Anyone can sign it; it is an issue for anyone who may come into contact with health care services now or in the future and who believes in safety and transparency. Do sign it if you think this is important too, and do share it via your own social media sites.
Read more about June on her blog: https://junegirvin2.wordpress.com/about/