Education standards offer the potential for radical change

New Nursing and Midwifery Council standards will put skills development and mentorship at the heart of professional development

New Nursing and Midwifery Council standards will put skills development and mentorship at the heart of professional development

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The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) is launching its new pre-registration standards this month, with implementation from 2019 onwards.

As well as standards of proficiency for registered nurses and for pre-registration nursing programmes, there is also a framework for pre- and post-registration nursing and midwifery education and standards for student supervision and assessment.

The NMC hopes to address, among other things:

  • Inconsistency of pre-registration education of student nurses, in terms of content, quality and outputs.
  • New registrants reporting that they do not have the requisite skills and knowledge to function effectively.  
  • Employers being unsure of what they can expect from new registrants.

It also wants to encourage the development of new skills and knowledge and an enhanced level of competency in generic skills and knowledge across all fields of nursing. This move to an emphasis on skills development is due to changes in the complexity of healthcare delivery, the shift to a public health focus, the need to ensure person-centred care and an increasing emphasis on leadership.


A new approach to practice-based learning is also required to address concerns regarding inconsistent mentorship experiences, which have varied from excellent to unacceptable.

The standards for student supervision and assessment replace the NMC standards to support learning and assessment in practice so that, in addition to academic assessors, we will now have:

  • Practice assessors, not necessarily from same field of practice as the student if they have suitable experience.
  • Practice supervisors, who can be any registered health or social care professional.

There will no longer be an approved programme for assessors or supervisors, although assessors will have to undergo training and supervisors will be expected to prepare for the role. Mentor registers will no longer be compulsory, and nor will the triennial review or the 40% rule.

Implementation challenges

This is a considerable change in the regulation of pre-registration nursing programmes, which potentially offers scope for great innovation and fundamental change in how pre-registration nurse education is delivered.  

This aspiration will, however, only be realised if there is close collaboration between approved education institutions and placement providers. Also, some of the current workforce will need upskilling to be confident about supervising, teaching and assessing students on the new programmes and there will be a need for considerable investment in familiarising staff with the new standards and continuing professional development more generally.

There are also challenges for the NMC as they will need to ensure that robust compliance metrics are used, that reviewers are suitably prepared for their role and that any feedback is listened to and acted upon. 

Realistic expectations

Even with the successful implementation of the new standards, expectations must be realistic; it would be unreasonable to assume that the newly registered graduate nurses of the future will have all the skills and knowledge required of a graduate registered nurse at the point of registration. A transition period of preceptorship will still be vital to ensure that all nurses are confident and competent practitioners.

Changing the system will require a shared and compelling vision of how things could be. These new standards will meet resistance, and hard work, resilience, investment and communication will be needed. The standards will also need to be reviewed under a strong quality-enhancement framework and through a longitudinal evaluation process. Overall, the potential for radical change in pre-registration nurse education is significant. 

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About the author

Anne Corrin is head of professional learning and development at the Royal College of Nursing

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