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Placement problems still posing risk to student learning, report half of universities

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Problems with placements continue to pose a threat to student learning, with around half of all UK universities with pre-registration nursing courses reporting it as a risk in the past year, the nursing regulator has found.

A total of 44 universities out of 77 told the Nursing and Midwifery Council that the quality of learning environments was a problem.

Meanwhile, 33 said insufficient placement capacity was an issue, according to the regulator’s annual assessment of course providers. Last year, 31 out of 77 raised concerns about placement capacity, an increase since 2015 when 15 reported this as an issue.

The regulator said practice learning “remains one of our key risk areas” and was being closely monitored. The warning comes in a report contained in NMC council papers that is due to be discussed later this week.

Some of the pressures currently on placements would be addressed through a new education framework that the NMC is developing, noted the report.

As previously reported by Nursing Times, the NMC is looking at increasing the number of hours students can be taught through simulation activities, which may reduce the amount of time spent on placements. It forms part of a major overhaul of education standards.

As part of this overhaul, the NMC also wants to change the way mentoring works - by allowing any registered health or social care professional to supervise students, but continuing to see only nurses or midwives carrying out student assessments.

Additional problems threatening student learning uncovered in this year’s report include reconfiguration of services – reported by 18 universities – and a lack of qualified mentors, reported by 11 course providers.

The NMC said most of the concerns were raised by universities in England and Wales, and all had action plans to mitigate the risks.

“Specific fields of nursing were identified as being particularly subject to teacher shortages”

NMC report on universities

Meanwhile, a third of universities told the regulator there had been changes to teaching staff in the past year, partly as a result of financial pressures and also retirements.

“Specific fields of nursing were identified as being particularly subject to teacher shortages, particularly child and learning disabilities,” said the report.

Most universities provided details to the NMC of the action they were taking to minimise the risks from shortages, said the report.

The NMC council will meet tomorrow to discuss the papers.

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