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Jean Flanagan discusses the future of nurse education

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VOL: 98, ISSUE: 20, PAGE NO: 33

Jean Flanagan is an NT clinical adviser

In the intense debate that surrounds nurse education, opinions on its purpose fall into two distinct camps. Some people value theoretical learning and some value practical learning. But why not value both?

In the intense debate that surrounds nurse education, opinions on its purpose fall into two distinct camps. Some people value theoretical learning and some value practical learning. But why not value both?

Nurse education is entering an exciting phase as institutions of higher education across the UK implement new nursing curricula in line with Fitness for Practice (UKCC, 1999). Maggie Lord's article (p38) sets out these changes, which are derived from Making a Difference (Department of Health, 1999) and represent an opportunity to value practice-based learning.

They will not, however, appeal to all nurse educators, particularly those with purist notions of what a university education should be. But such views are based on old-fashioned ideas of education and training, crude distinctions that no longer hold true. For example, work-based learning, which is traditionally seen as training, now requires students to demonstrate formal theoretical knowledge and analytical thinking, characteristics which are usually associated with higher education.

The Dearing report (1997) gave higher education the impetus and opportunity to accept the challenges of more flexible approaches to education and training.

Work-based learning is one such approach. If the potential of Making a Difference is to be realised, attention must be paid to the development, organisation and support of learning in the workplace. Nurse education needs to accept these challenges and move towards work-based approaches. But as we reported (Bunce, 2002), a lack of communication between universities and clinical settings often results in a poor deal for students on placements.

Nurse educators must grasp this opportunity. It is crucial to the development of the profession, but we need perceptive leadership within nurse education to drive forward these changes.

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