Motion to reduce practice hours defeated at congress

A motion calling for a reduction in clinical placement hours for nursing students was defeated at RCN congress.

A motion calling for a reduction in clinical placement hours for nursing students was defeated at RCN congress

Hannah O'Farrell argued that cutting clinical placement hours for nursing
students would improve the quality of learning. Picture: John Houlihan

A motion calling for clinical placement hours for nursing students to be reduced was defeated at RCN congress on Sunday after a lively debate featuring strong emotions.

RCN greater Liverpool and Knowsley branch member and University of Liverpool student nurse Hannah O'Farrell argued that a reduction in the 2,300 hours of clincial placement required by the Nursing and Midwifery Council on pre-registration nursing courses would improve the quality of learning and reduce the strain on mentors.

The branch's resolution argued that the requirement was not evidence-based, failed to account for the academic rigor of a degree, and that a reduction in hours would help with the shortage of placements.

Quality not quantity

'Should it not be the quality of clinical placement rather than the quantity of clinical hours that make for a competent nurse?' said Ms O'Farrell.

Students committee member for the South West of England Colin Revell said a reduction would give students 'much needed time to reflect on their placement and consolidate their learning'.

But Loretta Johnson receieved applause when she spoke against it. 'As a newly qualified nurse, I find it really confusing that anyone would want less time out in placement.'

She said preceptorship could be overwhelming when 'you haven't got the skills, because you've not been out there long enough practising'.

Practice time needed

Northern Ireland nurse Colleen White said the motion 'frightened' her, with students potentially ticked off as competent for skills they needed more time practising under different pressures.

Agenda committee member Maureen Dolan said that as a mature student she valued clinical placement, adding: 'You can’t learn empathy out of a book.'

The final two speakers spoke passionately in favour of the motion.

Former RCN president Andrea Spyropoulos recalled her own training: 'I spent hours in the sluice, cleaning the bed pans, folding the don't say to me that that was the best solution, because it sure as hell wasn't.

Ways to learn

'Remember what Hannah said, evidence-based. Everybody who has stood up here and defended the hours, show me the evidence and I'll support you.'

RCN northern branch member June Clark said: 'Why do we think that 'doing time' is a good way of learning anything. We need to understand what clinical placements are for, and they are not for putting our students through ridiculous shifts.'

She said research evidence proved countries outside the EU without the 2,300 hour requirement produced nurses 'every bit as competent' as UK nurses.

A large majority voted against the motion.

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