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OPINION

‘Help us to develop education standards for our future nurses’

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In a world where technology is changing at an exceptional rate and the landscape of the health and social care system is constantly developing, the Nursing and Midwifery Council faces a great challenge in preparing nurses and midwives for practice in 2030 and beyond.

In my role at the NMC, I’ll be leading a programme of work to modernise our education standards, consulting with our stakeholders every step of the way.

“We must establish an education programme that will ensure future nurses and midwives can rapidly adapt to change”

Our aim is to establish a vision that will ensure students are learning in environments that give them the necessary skills to be safe and capable at the point of registration, as well as a solid foundation on which they can continue to build their careers.

But how can we predict what nurses and midwives will be required to do in 20 years’ time? We must establish an education programme that will ensure future nurses and midwives can rapidly adapt to change, while maintaining their patients’ safety. And this is exactly what we intend to do.

Over the next four years we will be developing proficiency standards, establishing an education framework, carrying out a review of our quality assurance function and reviewing other strands of our education standards, like post-registration standards and prescribing proficiencies.

This isn’t just an update – it’s a radical review. We aim to futureproof our standards so nurses and midwives are educated to a level that means they feel able and confident to work within this ever-changing and increasingly complex healthcare environment.

“Nurses will be better equipped to work in an integrated, multi-agency health and social care system”

Work has already begun – led by Dame Jill Macleod Clark – on developing new pre-registration nursing proficiencies. These are grouped under seven themes considered key to the role of the future nurse. 

By meeting these new pre-registration standards, nurses will be better equipped to work in an integrated, multi-agency health and social care system. Nurses need to be able to work more flexibly and more autonomously across a range of health and care settings and within a complex system involving many other care providers.

Some other key areas of focus are: developing new clinical skills; making more care decisions; taking a lead role in various care settings, including mental and behavioural health; providing nursing leadership through mentorships; and making key contributions to improving the quality of care and treatment provided to patients. This is only a small summary of the new standards.

At the forefront of our minds when we set about developing these new draft education standards were the people they will affect – nurses and the patients and clients for whom they care.

“This is a very exciting time for education, with many changes on the horizon”

That’s why we’ve taken a ‘co-production’ approach to developing this important work: we’ve met with hundreds of nurses and students across the UK, and spoken to patients groups, members of the public, employers, trade unions and professional bodies. It’s vital the standards reflect what is most important to nurses and the people they care for.

This is a very exciting time for education, with many changes on the horizon. We will launch a public consultation for the new proficiency standards in spring and our proposed education framework in the summer – there will be plenty of opportunity to engage with us on every aspect of the programme. 

We know there will be challenges in developing this new approach and we are keen to find out, through the consultation, how we can overcome them. We want to hear from you and get your thoughts on the proposed new standards – will they allow you to be the best you can be in your role? We look forward to hearing from you.

Geraldine Walters is director of nursing and midwifery education, standards and policy at the Nursing and Midwifery Council

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