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Is there too much disparity in pre-registration nurse training?

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Student affairs editor, Alan Brownlee, considers how his training differs from that of his colleagues, and asks if more consistency is needed

Having had the chance to work with newly qualified nurses from different universities, I’ve become aware of how different other nurses’ training has been to mine. Some have had experiences that I would have appreciated, where they have had built-in training for common interventions such as catheterisation, cannulation, and practical patient assessment. Others have had to endure assignments on good handwashing technique or sharps management.

Our assessments largely focused on the philosophy underpinning the impetus for nursing, and how we came to be the kind of profession we are today. I have not had to go through any OSCI, and was required to pass only two exams. Great! But there is not one person in my cohort that did not wish for more practical teaching, even if it did mean more frequent assessments.

“There is not one person in my cohort that did not wish for more practical teaching”

We were left wanting for more information and more preparation for the roles we were about to embark on.

I have now met those coming from another perspective, whose training focused almost totally on the practical and tangible aspects of nursing to the detriment of the core philosophy of nursing care. They stumble when required to discuss the importance of a nursing philosophy, or how to combine and adapt this to their everyday practice, carrying out the task without a clear idea of the wider picture.

This disparity in nurse training, though new to me, is a longstanding problem.

As a student, I had been happy with the assumption that we would be taught a basic general skillset on to which we could add as we specialise further. However this skillset does not seem to exist, or at least not in any clear form. And so job roles are filled with newly qualified nurses, who can have any number of gaps in what might be thought of as the “basics” of nursing care.

“It is hard to deny the need for standardisation”

This means preceptorships are effectively being used to train nurses in basic skills, a role this period of time was not intended for.

I wonder whether I would have felt more useful in my first month as a qualified nurse had there been a greater standardisation of nurse training. But regardless of my feelings, it is hard to deny the need for standardisation given the focus on evidence-based care and eliminating unwarranted variation.

The NMC is currently consulting on future education standards for pre-registration training, changes which are intended to affect those starting training in the 2018/19 academic year. Draft guidelines suggest that there will be a clearer skillset and possibly basic prescribing theory included in training.

In my short experience, people muddle through their initial months as a staff nurse. This is difficult to avoid as we come to terms with the reality of the role, however this period would be made easier and safer if we all had a basic skillset with which to draw from. Our employers would know what to expect from us, and we would expect appropriate training to give us the knowledge needed for us to function in our specialised roles.

Though rather late for me, it will be interesting to see how future students are trained as my role changes from student to teacher.

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