Nurses would find it easier to train in more than one field of nursing, under proposals for the future of nurse education set out by the Royal College of Nursing in Wales.
The strategy covers pre- and post-registration education, advanced practice and education for healthcare support workers.
“It is essential nurses are constantly and consistently supported through education and training”
It emphasises the need to ensure nursing professionals can work across different settings and sectors in the future, as more care moves from hospitals into the community.
“To promote resilience and flexibility and to better meet patient needs, opportunities for registered nurses and healthcare support workers to develop competencies in more than one field of nursing need to be provided,” the strategy said.
For example, nurses could train in both adult and mental health nursing. One year Masters-level courses could be developed to help nurses on one part of the register qualify for another part.
When it comes to advanced practice, the strategy said it was time to move away from aligning advanced qualifications to particular specialities.
Instead, there was a need for advanced general nursing qualifications to enable senior nurses to work across a range of settings, said the document.
“Opportunities for nurses to develop competencies in more than one field of nursing need to be provided”
The strategy – titled The Future of Nursing Education in Wales: Education Strategy 2016 (see attached PDF below) – was developed with input from nursing leaders in both healthcare and education – including directors of nursing, nursing academics and teachers, and chief nursing officer for Wales Dr Jean White.
It was launched today at an RCN Wales leadership summit in Cardiff and contains a wide range of recommendations designed to help ensure the nursing workforce can meet future demand in terms of numbers and skills.
It claimed current arrangements for commissioning education places were hampering innovation and urged the Welsh government to consider removing a cap on student nurse numbers.
This might not only boost the supply of nurses but also encourage the development of “innovative and flexible programmes of study leading to registration”, it suggested.
The strategy stressed the importance of appraisals for nurses and healthcare assistants, and said NHS organisations should strive to ensure 100% of nursing and support workers go through the process.
Mentorship and clinical supervision must also be strengthened with mentorship programmes for student nurses as well as newly-qualified staff.
Other elements in the strategy include the need to ensure nurses have IT and data skills and to develop more clinical research roles for nurses.
When it comes to staffing levels, the strategy said more work was needed – with Wales potentially going its own way from the rest of the UK.
It called for the development of an “all Wales model” for working out staffing levels and skill mix and country-wide education and training for those responsible for ensuring adequate staffing.
Under the proposals, nursing managers and trust board members would get training on setting staffing levels.
On top of that it called for a “radical review of workforce planning”, including a plan for recruiting nurses in places that experience particular difficulties, such as remote and rural areas.
Solutions could include recruiting HCAs who want to stay in the area to do flexible training to enable them to qualify as nurses over a number of years.
The plan was officially presented to Welsh health minister Mark Drakeford, with the RCN hoping it will influence government policy.
“It is essential nurses and health care support workers are constantly and consistently supported through education and training to be able to meet changing service needs and new models of care,” said Tina Donnelly, director of RCN in Wales.
“We are grateful to the health minister for agreeing to consider the strategy and its recommendations which set an important direction both for nurse education and patient care,” she added.