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Editorial: The ‘good’ apprentice - revisiting Irish nursing's coming of age
journal contributionposted on 2023-07-26, 13:01 authored by Roger Watson, Jacinta Kelly
A decade ago Irish nursing was lauded as the envy of Europe for its coming of age with the introduction of a four-year honours degree for preparatory nurse training and the prospect of an all graduate profession (Cowman, 2001, Watson, 2003). The new preparatory degree course was designed, chiefly, to respond to increasingly complex healthcare needs but also to raise the esteem of the nursing profession, including parity of esteem with other professionals, public esteem and the individual and collective self-esteem of nursing professionals. While the introduction of the undergraduate system in Ireland was instigated with relative ease, due in much part to a then healthy Irish economy, it was nonetheless heralded as a triumph as it came about despite strident calls from the media and from within the ranks of many in the nursing profession for less emphasis on the intellectual aspects of nursing and the retention of the more practical based and trusted apprenticeship system (Fealy and McNamara, 2007). In 2008, the economic downturn left nurses facing pay reductions, graduate and faculty staff recruitment embargos, dwindling student places and crippling increases in student registration fees. All indicators pointed towards a crushing reversal of fortune for Irish nursing. Over half a century ago, employment prospects for nurses in Ireland qualifying under the apprenticeship model were decidedly more optimistic. In the light of the present economic downturn in Ireland and reforms which see the UK follow Ireland's initiative to introduce degree-level preparatory nurse training by 2013, it is useful to revisit the traditional apprenticeship system in Ireland to consider whether, in the face of challenging economic circumstances, it is worth the effort to persevere with the aim of achieving an all-graduate profession.
Publication titleNurse Education Today