14. Working across all clinical specialties
Resolution submitted by the RCN Gloucestershire Branch
That RCN Congress calls on UK governments to require nurses to work across all clinical specialties
Submitted by: Gloucester Branch
Council lead and committee assigned: No Council member assigned, Nursing Practice and Policy Committee
Committee decision: Existing work addresses this issue
Members involved: None
This resolution was not passed at Congress, and therefore did not require any specific action.
The RCN’s This is Nursing project, which looks at the seven key areas of nursing, is already undertaking work on this issue.
Delegates at Congress rejected a resolution which called on UK governments to require nurses to work across all clinical specialties.
Proposing the resolution, Verna Phillips from the Gloucester branch said in a changing health care environment nursing staff need to be able to turn their hands to anything.
She said: “Patients need to be nursed at the right place and care given at the right time by competent staff.”
Seconder Kathy Moore from the East Dorset branch said it was already common for nurses to move away from their specialties to cover staff sickness absence, and they should be equipped to meet patients needs.
Referring to Tuesday’s John Goodlad lecture on workplace stress, Bryan Williamson from the Nursing in Criminal Justice Forum said it would not help nurses’ wellbeing if they did not know where they would be working each day.
Patients need both specialist and general nurses, according to Denise Chaffer from Outer South West London branch, while Greg Usrey from the Greater Glasgow branch said nurses pick specialties as that’s where their interest in nursing lies.
Helen Ballinger, from the Gloucester branch, said it was important nursing students worked across as many areas as possible before specialising.
For: 52 11.45%
Against: 402 88.55%
During 2010 there was significant debate around the role and value of specialist nurses which resulted in an RCN publication entitled Specialist nurses: changing lives, saving money (Royal College of Nursing, 2010). During the same year, following extensive consultation, the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) published its Standards for pre-registration nursing education (Nursing and Midwifery Council, 2010) which rejected ‘generic nursing’ in favour of retaining the existing four fields of practice followed by post registration specialisation.
However, the RCN is aware that some specialist nurses have recently been required to work on general wards to save money. This has caused alarm for nurses across all areas who are concerned they may be insufficiently prepared to undertake care in areas outside of their specialism.
The RCN's Frontline First campaign (Royal College of Nursing, 2011) has gathered evidence from members on cutbacks which impact upon the nursing workforce and ultimately on a wide range of patients, including those with long-term conditions, learning disabilities or mental ill health, and in acute/ hospital care. Clearly, the current climate of financial restraints and cut backs to training and professional development are of concern where poor standards of care may be a consequence.
References and further reading
Nursing and Midwifery Council (2010) Standards for pre-registration nursing education, London: NMC. Available at:
(accessed 10/2/11) (Web).