22 December 2013

Home for Christmas

UNITED KINGDOM—I love Christmas, and I’m not afraid to admit it. There is the underlying Christian message, which, along with a dwindling minority in the U.K., I actually believe. I also like the more Victorian aspects of Christmas: Christmas trees, Christmas cards (if my wife writes them), and Christmas Day. Aware that many spend Christmas alone and face hardship here and across the world, I am grateful that my family gathers together. At some point in the holiday season, all of our eight children and five grandchildren will visit, plus husbands, partners, friends, and a dog. I won’t answer email for a fortnight. Initially, I suffer withdrawal symptoms and then settle down, to emerge at the other end ready to face the next year. And next year is going to be one of my busiest.

Looking back on 2013
This year has been busy, too, but not exceptional. I have been lucky to visit 13 countries outside the U.K., and past blogs recount my visits to Hong Kong, Italy, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Australia, the United States, Taiwan, China, Singapore, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain. With the exception of Thailand, I have run in each of these places, which was one of my unstated goals for the year. My running miles on the ground this year amount to 700; my miles in the air 150,000. I am, I realise, very lucky to have the funding and freedom to do this.

Looking forward to 2014
A large part of my work next year will be taken up with the United Kingdom Research Excellence Framework (REF). A periodic exercise—recent ones, then called Research Assessment Exercises, took place in 2001 and 2008—it is the mechanism whereby the British government allocates core-research funding to British universities. I serve on the subpanel for dentistry, allied health professions, nursing, and pharmacy (subpanel 3 of main panel A), led by Hugh McKenna, CBE, FRCN, FAAN, pro-vice chancellor, research and innovation (equivalent to a university vice president) at the University of Ulster

McKenna a mental-health nurse, is one of the leading U.K. academic nurses. The REF is multifaceted, assessing research outputs (publications and patents), environment, and impact. However, at the heart of the exercise lies peer review, and the majority of the work is reading and rating publications for their international excellence. This will occupy almost all my waking hours between January and October 2014—in my office, on trains, and on planes.

I mentioned in a previous blog that I have been asked to lead a Lancet commission on U.K. nursing. This will take place over approximately the next two years, and I am in the process of assembling the commissioners this week. Once they are in place, the work of the commission can begin, and I will let you know who my colleagues are and keep you informed of progress. Each of the people I have contacted has received a statement from me, which is my assessment of the situation in the United Kingdom at present, and I have made this available on my own blog. Comments on this are welcome, as they will inform the commission.

Everyone’s an expert
Like last year, I thought I would make it to the end of the year without some public figure making an adverse pronouncement about nursing education, but I was wrong. This time it was Vince Cable, MP (member of Parliament), secretary of state for business, innovation, and skills in the British government. Cable claimed that degrees are superfluous to many jobs and, of course, he had to include nursing. I spotted this while I was in Singapore and, just as my blood pressure was rising, I saw that Ieuan Ellis, professor at Leeds Metropolitan University, had responded in the pages of THE (Times Higher Education).

I was especially gratified at his response, titled “Sterile debate,” because Ellis speaks with authority. He is chair of the U.K.’s Council of Deans of Health. Moreover, he is not a nurse; he is a physiotherapist and a pro-vice chancellor at Leeds Metropolitan University. In his response, Ellis said of Cable, “It is unfortunate that he is seemingly unaware of the benefits to patients of nurses being educated to degree level.” He cited a large body of work as follows: “The international RN4CAST study of nurses in more than 10 European countries (including England) shows that mortality is approximately 7 percent lower for every 10 percent increase in the proportion of nurses with degrees. This backs up work in the [United States] by University of Pennsylvania scholar Linda Aiken, who found that a 10 percent increase in the number of nurses with a bachelor’s degree was associated with a 5 percent reduction in the likelihood of patients dying within 30 days of admission.”

Season's greetings
I would like to thank the many people who have visited this blog; I hope that most of those who have read it will return in 2014. This is me, signing off for 2013 and wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

For Reflections on Nursing Leadership (RNL), published by the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International.

1 comment:

  1. Happy New Year Roger . . I would be delighted to hear more about your Lancet work and may even have a spare mince pie if you offer the coffee.

    best wishes to all your family