Student nurses are not being given the opportunity to practice basic observation techniques while on clinical placements, potentially leading to a major gap in essential skills.
While nursing students are learning skills such as how to take manual blood pressure in academic settings, comments posted on the Nursing Times website suggest they are not able to put the skill into practice in clinical areas.
The comments were posted in response to a Nursing Times investigation, published last week, which revealed how poor practice in patient observation skills was hindering nurses’ ability to spot the signs that a patient’s condition is deteriorating.
One first year nursing student said: “Students want to learn these [fundamental] nursing skills, but on many [ward] placements there is an over reliance on the use of technical equipment and no time for students to practice. This is something that needs to be changed for the benefit and safety of patients.”
A second year nursing student commented that the lack of available equipment on wards meant students were in danger of “losing their basic skills”.
“We are taught how to use sphygmometers in university, but when we are out in practice we are not encouraged to, or given the chance to use anything other than a Dynamap,” she said.
Jacqueline Bloomfield, a lecturer in adult nursing at King’s College London’s Florence Nightingale School of Nursing and Midwifery, told Nursing Times it was “imperative” that nursing students were able to practice taking manual blood pressure on ward placements.
“This is a core nursing skill, but is not always easy to master and requires practice. There is no better place to practice than on clinical placement,” she said.
“The consistent use of Dynamaps on wards, and the lack of [manual] equipment, means students are not getting the opportunity to hone their skills,” she warned.
Ms Bloomfield added that student nurses should proactively seek out manual equipment, and that ward sisters and student mentors should lead by example to encourage student nurses to use it.
“Technology is not infallible and can fail. [Nurses] need to reiterate that taking a manual blood pressure is a valuable skill. Although wards do get very busy, if students see nurses using manual equipment, they will do it too,” she said.
According to the results of the snapshot survey of 830 people, published in Nursing Times last week, one of the main reasons for this is an increased reliance on technology, such as automated blood pressure recording machines.