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The University of Southampton
Health Sciences

Influencing the European Parliament | a review from Mary Gobbi

Dr Mary Gobbi recently returned from the European Parliament in Brussels where she was invited by the European Federation of Nurses Associations (EFN) to attend a round table debate hosted by MEP Phil Prendergast.  

The debate was about ‘Modernisation of the Mutual Recognition of Professional Qualifications' and centred around the proposal to amend the 2005 Directive 36 to upgrade the minimum requirements for entry into nursing education to 12 years.

Mary writes about her contribution to the debate:

"My major contribution to the debate was to argue the case for 12 years general school education as the minimum requirement for entry to pre-registration nursing courses.  Knowing that the German Government has been lobbying hard to keep 10 years of education I focussed upon gender equality issues and the proportion of people staying in education beyond school leaving age since the 1970s.

"The arguments relating to educational levels of nurses, patient outcomes and current health needs had already been presented.  So my case centred on the issues concerning the women's role in society and the education level expected of nurses who interact with 'expert patients' in the age of the internet and evidence based practice.  

"First, when the Directive was drafted in the 1960s and early 1970s, very few women in society completed education beyond compulsory school leaving age which was mainly nine or 10 years of schooling. The main comparator profession at that time for women was teaching. Teachers were also predominantly non-graduates, whereas today in the UK and Germany, all teachers (including primary school age) are graduates.  I pointed out one has to be a graduate to teach primary school children yet nurses, who are expected to engage in complex  health education and teaching with adults, appear not to require the same level of education?  How can a nurse enter into informed conversation when s/he has such a low level of general education?

"Second, and more forcibly, I suggested that a failure to raise the entry requirement was actually a discriminate act against women and consequently against nurses. Most registered nurses in Europe are female, and certainly in Germany.  By preventing such large numbers of women from being educated further there was a perpetuation of the educational bias against women.  In the German system nurse education is primarily in hospital schools attached to their vocational training system.

"A response was that to remove nurses from their vocational training scheme would remove women from the training sector and therefore offer a bias against men as so few women would be left in this sector. In so doing the MEP likened nurse training to that of electricians.  As a response it actually confirmed our concerns! I leave the implications to you.

"It is certainly the case that youth unemployment is managed through this vocational sector and so women with low level qualifications can enter nursing, while those with aspirations to professional graduate nursing can still be nurses, but their intellectual abilities cannot be harnessed through their pre-registration training.

"The first graduate entry course for nursing in Germany commenced in Berlin in 2004. This was at a hospital run by the Kaiserwerth nuns to whom Nightingale went for training in 1844! The German nurse association supports vociferously the move to 12 years. So the lobbying continues, with the UK Government taking a more neutral stance.

"Ironically, raising the entry level to 12 years for midwifery is not being contested. This may be because in most countries midwifery education commences after general nursing so de facto the midwife has completed the equivalent of 12 years of schooling."

Dr Mary Gobbi

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