Comment

Universities must examine how they equip students for the new challenges they’ll face

It is not just enough to give would-be-nurses knowledge, says Tracey Proctor-Childs.
Nursing students

It is not just enough to give would-be-nurses knowledge says Tracey Proctor-Childs.

A new wave of nursing students start in September, embarking on a career in health services that faces increasing financial pressures and undergoing change.

With an aging population living longer, the need for skilled health professionals is more important than ever. And that depends on graduates with the right skills and mindset.

The government has challenged universities to provide 10,000 nurses by expanding available places by 2020. Nurses will need increasingly higher skill levels to manage the populations needs.

The Higher Education Statistical Agency recently published its annual UK graduate employability figures. They show 71% are employed in professional occupations within six months of graduating. In nursing, the figures rise to 99%.

Extensive training

But this only tells half the story. Universities need to develop flexible, creative, well rounded individuals who have

...

It is not just enough to give would-be-nurses knowledge says Tracey Proctor-Childs.

A new wave of nursing students start in September, embarking on a career in health services that faces increasing financial pressures and undergoing change. 

With an aging population living longer, the need for skilled health professionals is more important than ever. And that depends on graduates with the right skills and mindset.

The government has challenged universities to provide 10,000 nurses by expanding available places by 2020. Nurses will need increasingly higher skill levels to manage the population’s needs.

The Higher Education Statistical Agency recently published its annual UK graduate ‘employability’ figures. They show 71% are employed in professional occupations within six months of graduating. In nursing, the figures rise to 99%. 

Extensive training

But this only tells half the story. Universities need to develop flexible, creative, well rounded individuals who have solid knowledge to apply in practice. We have to provide an environment where they can use their knowledge to help them in a work setting. 

Practical experience is crucial. Placements provide a strong basis, but it is important that students have access to the latest equipment and facilities. For example, the University of the West of England has state-of-the-art simulation suites for all nursing fields so graduates are able to contribute from their first day.

Students expect to leave with the fundamental practical and theoretical skills to ‘be a nurse’.

However, they also leave with in-depth theoretical and practical knowledge, advanced communication skills, critical thinking, adaptability, and confidence in leading and teaching others. This often reinforces their compassion and enjoyment for the job. 

Increasingly, it’s not good enough for any graduate to only have knowledge, they have to be able to apply it in different contexts. Universities can’t do this in isolation.

A report released last month – The Role of Progressive Universities in the Global Knowledge Economy – called on universities to forge closer links with business to bridge the skills gap and increase UK productivity.

Universities need to focus on real world learning experiences that allow graduates to be adaptable, enterprising and ready for work. 


About the author

Tracey Proctor-Childs

Tracey Proctor-Childs is academic director adult nursing at the University of the West of England 

 

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