Nurses: Not So Hot on British Wards

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Fabulous pay rates. Generous cash bonuses. Access to the latest technology. The chance to enjoy world-class skiing, tuck into exotic foods or just enjoy a romantic walk along a beach at sunset. Welcome to the new career structure for the British nurse.

Sadly, it is not in the NHS. It's offered through proliferating recruitment web-sites such as or the interestingly named Hawaii, Florida and San Francisco are the enticing replacements for Huddersfield, Faversham and Southampton.

The promises seem to be working. The latest figures reveal that the number of UK nurses who leave to work abroad has risen by a third. The number going to the US has doubled in a year.

Who can blame them? Here, they get vomit-strewn wards, violent patients and assurances from the Royal College of Nursing that the new Channel 4 drama No Angels represents just "a missed opportunity to tell people the truth about nursing". The RCN doesn't seem to understand that if nurses aren't having fun shagging in linen cupboards, spiking doctors' drinks and running rings around the patients, then it will be hard to attract anybody to the job.

The government has made efforts. The NHS has recruited 55,000 extra nurses since 1997. And, last year, nine out of ten nurses voted for the new NHS pay system, terms and conditions known as Agenda for Change, with a 16 per cent pay rise over three years. Yet the NHS still needs to find 35,000 more nurses during the next five years--while at the same time a quarter of the workforce is due to retire, and up to one in five nurses drops out before the end of training.

Speak to those who've gone into nursing, and their enthusiasm shines through. "Tell me, in what other job could you look after a professor and a prostitute on the same day," said one imaginative recruit.

But the RCN claims that nursing is still seen too often as a low-status, "doctor's little helper" job, with dreadful shift patterns. …