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Call for debate on future of nursing education

A new report from the Council of Deans of Health is calling for discussion on what new standards of pre-registration nursing education should look like.

Nurses of the future will need to be more autonomous, work across care boundaries and understand global issues such as antimicrobial resistance, according to a new report.

The vision by the Council of Deans of Health (CoD), which represents UK universities faculties offering nursing and midwifery courses, forms part of a call for debate on how pre-registration nursing education can best prepare students to be nurses of the future.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) began work last year to develop new pre-registration standards, which should be ready in time for institutions to adopt from September 2019.

Newly-qualified nurses from programmes developed from the new standards will graduate from 2022 and may be in the workforce in 2065.

RCN head of education Anne Corrin said: 'Most nurses won’t be working in acute settings in the future – they will be expected to work across care settings.'

Realistic achievements?

She highlighted an emphasis on nurse leadership in the report, as well as the question mark over what can be expected of nurses at the point of registration.

'Employers want them to hit the ground running, but is that realistic? Everybody should have access to a top quality preceptorship, as the learning curve is huge in the first six months.'

Pre-registration training placements also come under the spotlight in the report, which suggests there is no evidence to support input hours as a proxy for quality of education.

It says: 'There is a tendency to confuse the amount of time in practice with the amount of learning in practice – it is important to note that in many other countries, nursing students spend far fewer hours in placements.

'A 2010 survey in Australia...found a mean of 954 placement hours for undergraduate nursing course, in the US, nursing students spend around 1,000 hours in placements.'

Thinking inside the box

Currently, nursing students in the UK spend 2,300 hours on clinical practice and placements.

Ms Corrin said: 'There are some quite controversial things in that subtext – the inference for me is we need to think about this in the UK.

'I think our membership would be very split over that idea, because a lot of RCN members think practice is the most important part of the training so would want to be reassured if you did cut it that students would get adequate experience.'

Some future outcomes of pre-registration nursing education suggested in the report include:

  • More emphasis on enabling self-care and management of patients.
  • ‘Social prescribing’ by nurses’ bringing together housing, health and benefits for patients.
  • Working between primary, community care and hospital settings, often autonomously.
  • Increased knowledge and skills in health IT, informatics and social networking sites.
  • A comprehensive understanding of mental and physical health, as well as learning needs of adults and children.
  • An increasingly strong leadership role.
Collaboration needed

Head of nursing at the Open University and CoD future nurse advisory group chair, Jan Draper said UK-wide collaboration would be key to shaping the future of nursing education.

'The review presents a strong opportunity to stimulate debate on the future direction of nurse education and the ways in which universities and practice organisations work together to design models of practice learning.'

NMC chief executive Jackie Smith said: ‘It is encouraging the vision for the future graduate nurse set out in this paper is very much aligned with our direction of travel.

‘Ensuring that nurses and midwives are equipped for the future in the context of a rapidly changing health environment is critical to our role in protecting the public.’

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