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Bedside broadside

I am a nurse who enjoys reading NCE from time to time. I was somewhat taken aback by Stephen Trowbridge's letter (NCE last week).

I am the wife of a civil/ structural engineer, who has two sons, one currently at university studying civil engineering with geology, the other studying architecture. Both have decided their direction independent of any influence from parents. However, we are keeping our fingers crossed that our daughter does not wish to become a quantity surveyor!

My husband in his student days faced the dilemma of whether to be an engineer or doctor, both professions which he felt he would have fitted into exceptionally well. The former had the greater pull for my husband, as he felt engineering offered a more challenging and diverse life.

For my role as a nurse, it is safe to say that I would be considered as a specialist, unfortunately not commanding a salary of £30,000 and above. That perhaps will be the case for the new 'super nurse' which the government is creating. I note in the most recent salary survey for engineers that the average salary is now in excess of £20,000. This is comparable with a nursing service in excess of 20 years.

I do however take exception to 'lots of paid training and little or no professional responsibility'. A qualified nurse, whatever their level of expertise, is at all times held accountable for their actions. Should the wrong medication or injection be administered then that nurse will be held totally accountable for their mistake. You could say that your life is in my hands!

Engineers who make a life-threatening mistake with their calculations will not normally be held solely accountable for their mistake, it will be their company that will be held accountable. No doubt the offending engineer may be sacked but he will not be summarily struck off the register.

A nurse wishing to further develop their career beyond the initial stages may have to do so at considerable expense. Is it not now a requirement for engineers to have a structured CPD in order to maintain credibility in the bigger picture of the construction industry and cannot much of this be achieved within normal working hours?

Mr Trowbridge is correct in one area, NHS pensions are probably the best available. Perhaps the ICE should be looking at a similar global pension.

Yvonne M Currie, 2 Munro Road, Jordanhill, Glasgow G13 1SF

Second opinion

I have to take issue with the letter by Stephen Trowbridge, recommending the career of nursing. Frankly Mr Trowbridge doesn't know he's been born! My wife is a nurse of some 12 years experience and works on night shifts, regularly making life and death decisions, giving potentially deadly drugs, facing assault from relatives and injury through lifting heavy patients. She is often responsible for the welfare of up to thirty six patients at a time, alone, with little or no backup.

Even the most difficult job that I did, working on the Jubilee Line Extension, did not match the stress and difficulty of hers and yet the normal mid grade RGN pay only just matches that of a graduate engineer, approximately £15,000 per year. (There is little differential between newly qualified and experienced nurses any more, thanks to Mr Dobson). The government's 'Super-nurse' post is simply a propaganda ploy, affecting only the tiniest proportion of all professional nurses who in the main do one of the most difficult, unglamorous yet most essential and undervalued jobs in the country.

I, for one, could never be patient or caring enough to be a nurse.

MS Lightbody (M), associate director, Engineering Surveying Investigation, Porterswood House, Porters Wood, St Albans, Hertfordshire AL3 6PQ

Wrong diagnosis

I read with distaste the letter from Stephen Trowbridge advocating a career in nursing as preferable to a life in civil engineering.

I am fortunate enough to have a Chartered civil engineer for my father and a nurse for my mother. While neither career has proved easy, both have provided extremely challenging and satisfying moments for my parents. I have a degree in civil and environmental engineering and am studying for a PhD in industrial wastewater treatment. Furthermore, my sister is training as a paedeatric nurse and would most certainly refute the claim that such a degree is not 'a difficult one'.

I would challenge Stephen Trowbridge to produce a single nurse earning anywhere near the salaries he suggests, or one who feels 'little or no professional responsibility'. My mother is now a strategic level nurse and, unfortunately, makes much less that Mr Trowbridge quotes, despite high levels of professional responsibility.

I feel saddened that Mr Trowbridge feels so exploited by the ICE that he would actively discourage his sons from entering what would prove to be an extremely satisfying and stimulating career, with such broad opportunities. As a 23 year old woman about to enter the world of engineering, I sincerly hope that I will meet few civil engineers who are so discouraged. I believe that if members of the Institution are discouraging their own offspring from entering engineering, the quality and integrity of future members must be questioned. If Mr Trowbridge feels so strongly about the failure of the ICE to represent him then why is he still a member and why has he not attempted to change the monster from within?

If his sons are genuinely interested in civil engineering, I would encourage them to go for it.

Lucy Freese (G) l.freese@ic.ac.uk

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