Sunday, 15 August 2010

A Level of Qualifying Ones Position, and the Monkey Puzzle Dinosaurs

It is the time of the year when thousands of young people will be excitedly, hesitantly, or fearfully be awaiting their A Level results. University places, future careers will all depend on these results. It is also the time of the year when the Media will loudly consider the value of A Levels, and whether they really are as tough as they were last year, 5 or even 10 years ago. With the economic situation impacting upon employment opportunities and increasing competition for a diminishing number of jobs, getting the best qualifications would seem to be life critical.

For a variety of reasons this week I have been looking at a number of job descriptions and job specifications. I have been surprised at the range of qualifications that are deemed either essential or those seen to be merely desirable. Academic related roles (lecturers, researchers and so on) seem to demand higher levels of qualifications than say managerially related roles (administrators, professional support staff and so on). Many Universities’s now demand that all teaching staff have a PhD and a teaching qualification before they will be even considered for a position. Yet, this week, I have also seen senior University managerial positions where the only essential qualification is a first degree.

At a time when the nursing profession is preparing for an all graduate profession at the point of initial registration, I find this inconsistency in the value given to qualifications for different but equally important roles frustrating and somewhat depressing. It is a bit like the inconsistency that still exists between the exhortations to strive towards only evidence based practice and the often non-existent evidence based approaches to management and policy making that is characteristic of much of the public sector.

In complete contrast to this depressing situation, it was refreshing to see how the work of Kath Eccles and Gill Lomax has helped make the town of Blackburn and the surrounding area with the lowest level of diabetes-related limb amputation in the UK. These two ‘Foot Nurses’ developed the Blackburn Boot, a pressure relieving cast used to protect ulcerated feet, reduce inpatient stays and prevent further damage. In a brilliant TV interview these two highly engaging nurses employed by East Lancashire NHS Trust, talked about their work with passion, insight and intelligence.

Unfortunately this is not always a universal phenomena. Who can forget that dreadful soap opera originating from the US (where else?) called ‘Passions’. Screened in 2005, this programme featured an orang-utan named Precious in the role of the private duty nurse of one of the programmes characters. The show produced by NBC only lasted 18 months, but every episode reinforced the often media induced poor public image of the work of nurses.

This Saturdays Telegraph reported on our own BBC’s wonderful programme on Dinosaurs. The article discussed not the NBC type dinosaur, the poorly qualified University manager or even those such as Tyrannosaurus Rex or a Plesiosaur, but a much older form that goes by the mellifluous name of Araucaria araucana, better known to gardeners as the monkey puzzle tree. Having survived millennia in many parts of South America, it is now officially one of the world’s most threatened species, and in need of conservation.

I have a wonderful specimen of a monkey puzzle tree in my back garden, which I really like…