Occupational health nurses have expressed their disquiet about a scheme being tested by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) to recognise nurses working at an advanced level of practice, but which is based on criteria that appears to exclude those working in OH.
The “credentialing” programme is designed to recognise the skills of nurses working at an advanced level within four key areas of practice: clinical, leadership, education and research.
The intention is the programme will be rolled out more widely, to all nurses working at an advanced level, from April next year.
The scheme is open to NHS and independent nurses, and RCN members and non-members.
Those who are successful receive a badge and a certificate and will be included on a new register.
RCN chief executive Janet Davies said: “This programme will use the RCN’s expertise and unparalleled knowledge to help nurses develop their careers, and give patients and employers confidence in the continuing development of their staff.”
However, to put themselves forward, nurses will need to demonstrate they have a relevant master’s qualification, are members of the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), and have “non-medical prescribing rights”.
For the pilot, the RCN has said it will also accept “temporary arrangements for nurses who have equivalent to master’s degree-level study and an NMC recordable prescribing qualification”.
It is this requirement to demonstrate a prescribing qualification – something not normally required for or relevant to OH – that has raised eyebrows among OH nurses, and led to fears that they will end up being inadvertently excluded from the scheme.
Diane Romano-Woodward, president of the Association of Occupational Health Nurse Practitioners, told Occupational Health & Wellbeing: “Within occupational health there is no appetite or requirement for nurses to be prescribing, and so OH nurses tend not to have this qualification. The RCN, it appears, has a very limited view that if you want to be an advanced practitioner, you must have this qualification.
“Occupational health nurses are applying and so we will be monitoring whether they are included in the pilot. It is things like this that make a lot of OH nurses feel they are not represented within the profession,” she added.
A spokesperson for the RCN emphasised that the scheme is, at the moment, just a pilot.
And RCN head of education Dr Stephanie Aiken has pointed out there will be transitional arrangements in place to enable nurses “to attain the criteria or put together a portfolio of evidence demonstrating the required level of qualifications, experience and competence”.
More details on the scheme can be found by emailing [email protected]