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Old-fashioned views mean nurses underpaid

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RCN, Royal College of Nursing, Oxford Brookes University, study, nursing, university graduates, pay, old-fashioned view, women caring, , ‘Old-fashioned’ perceptions persist of nursing as a job carried out by women for whom caring is ‘natural’.

Nine out of 10 nurses in the UK are women. Their weekly pay is on average £15.42 per hour, which is less than a third of that of doctors and dentists.

But nursing is a graduate profession, with all new nurses required to have degrees, indicating the high-level technical and clinical skills needed to do the job.

A study commissioned by the Royal College of Nursing has shown that nursing is undervalued in status and pay.

And until both are enhanced, the UK will continue to experience severe nursing shortages.

The study, conducted the Royal College of Nursing and researchers at Oxford Brookes University, argues that the ‘old-fashioned view that caring for others is a feminine characteristic still persists in British society’.

And this, the study’s authors claim, has contributed to the suppression of nurses’ wages and working conditions for generations.

The study’s authors found that not only do nurses ‘routinely take on tasks that would have previously been the preserve of doctors’, they are constantly pushing forward advances in nursing practice. Nurses’ pay, however, does not reflect this.

The study also argues that the dire shortage of nurses should have forced an increase in wages to meet demand, but because most nurses are women, the profession continues to be under-valued.

One in nine nursing jobs are currently vacant, while a third of the profession are due to retire by 2026.

The study, ‘Gender and Nursing as a Profession: Valuing Nurses and Paying Them Their Worth’, provides a breakdown of the gender pay gap, which shows that, unlike the rest of the health sector, differences are largely the result of gender differences in working hours rather than sex discrimination.

Despite the fact that 90 per cent of nurses are women, women fill less than a third of senior positions and earn on average 17 per cent less than men in similar positions per week.

Nurses from an ethnic minority background tend to earn 10 per cent less than their white colleagues, when other factors are taken into consideration.

Rachael McIlroy, Senior Research Lead at the Royal College of Nursing, said: “This report is an important step in challenging and changing perceptions about nursing.

“We hope that this research will spark a conversation within the nursing profession, among nursing staff, employers, regulators and policy makers, about the critical role played by the largest health care occupation in the country and how we better value it in terms of status and pay.”

And Dr Anne Laure Humbert, Director of the Centre for Diversity Policy Research and Practice at Oxford Brookes University, and one of the report’s authors, said: “Despite the growing complexity and technical nature of the work, as well as the difficult emotional labour it entails, ‘old-fashioned’ perceptions persist of nursing as a job carried out by women for whom caring is ‘natural’, thus deskilling and devaluing those involved.”

To read the full report, click here.

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