Is nurse education too focused on acute care?
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic there was a shortfall in the community nursing workforce and an increasingly ageing population. The motto during the pandemic was to ‘stay at home, save lives and protect the NHS’. Media images were of NHS staff at full capacity in the acute sector, with weekly clapping for NHS heroes outside emergency departments. The media portrayal of the NHS at this time arguably favoured acute services, which was well deserved, but, in doing so, perhaps created a disservice to frontline staff in the community.
In reality, ongoing and additional care continues to be delivered at community level, with capacity struggling to meet current demands. Community data identified that 1 201 200 community referrals relating to patient care were received in August 2021, with length of referral to treatment and assessment times under strain (NHS Digital, 2021).
As a consequence of the pandemic, we must ask ourselves whether it is time for nurse education to shift its priorities from a predominantly secondary care-focused programme to one centring on community and public health. In a world that moves so rapidly, has nursing as a profession become shortsighted? It has long been identified that investment in community nursing is essential (Queen's Nursing Institute (QNI), 2019). Judging the value of nursing by its ability to save lives in emergencies, as opposed to preventing those emergencies in the first place, would no doubt prove complex.
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