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Where are the young Nightingales?

There is general celebration and relief in our household at the moment. My eldest daughter has got the grades she needs and is off to university in October. I am so proud of her I could burst. We are also celebrating not only her success but that of her friends: so far as I know, everyone has achieved what they needed. However, I don't know of anyone who is planning to go to train as a nurse.

While I appreciate that my daughter's social circle may not constitute an optimum sample of the UK population of 18-year- olds, I would have hoped that it would have contained one aspiring Florence Nightingale or Mary Seacole. In my small year at school that only contained 25 girls, I know of at least two others who became nurses. However, in my daughter's much larger year group, we know of no one.  

I know one or two have considered it as an option. However, they have been discouraged by the combination of long hours, relatively low pay, the well-publicised problems of the NHS and the "yuck" factor of what we often have to deal with. In their eyes, why choose a profession that is such hard work for so little reward? I have mentioned the satisfaction that comes with nursing but I am talking to a generation that is only too aware of the financial difficulties they will face in terms of affording somewhere to live and the rising cost of living. I get the feeling that although this younger generation admires our commitment they are not prepared or able to make the same sacrifices.  

I wonder if some of these 18-year-olds will consider nursing when they are older and more secure? In my experience, some of the best nurses I have worked with are those who have joined our profession later and brought their wealth of life experience with them. I remember how naive and terrified I was when I first walked on a ward, convinced I was going to accidentally injure a patient simply through my ignorance. More mature students probably make safer students. However, our profession also needs the energy and vision of the young. How are we going to attract them?  

On a personal level, I have to confess that I am relieved that my daughter has not chosen to become a nurse. My relief is partly because of the financial issues but more importantly because I really don't think her talents lie in that direction. A few years ago, she announced over supper that she was considering medicine. When we all stopped laughing we pointed out that her extreme squeamishness might be a significant obstacle. I have every confidence she will go on to bring her own unique and worthwhile contribution to our world, but I think the NHS is probably a safer place without her!

What aspect of nursing do you think puts young people off the most? Your comments: (Terms and conditions apply)

"I think Una is right and for academically able students nursing is not first on their list. Nursing still has a lower status in healthcare compared with OT, physio and speech and language therapy. The lack of clear thinking for the future role also contributes to it not attracting or retaining the bright young things male and female." - Sue Spencer, Newcastle