The ever-marching progress from the Nursing and Midwifery Council in expanding the role of the qualified nurse is the biggest thing to happen to nursing since it became a degree-level qualification.
The draft pre-registration education standards hint towards a more advanced curriculum and skill set required for qualification.
The problem I see as a nursing educator is how is this all going to fit within the current three-year programme? Time is already stretched between simulation, placement, classroom learning and assessment. The current degree package as it stands is fit to burst, yet there appears to be more curriculum content on the horizon.
The NMC may lift the cap on simulated learning hours, but is this the answer with the resource intensity and time needed for high-quality simulation?
The current higher educational model of large group intakes results in limited rich learning opportunities within simulation suites and problem-based scenario role play. Educators with cohorts of 100 students have to segment groups and run shorter sessions to ensure everyone gets an equal opportunity.
How do educators find the time to provide nursing students with the quantity, as well as quality of learning that learners deserve? My honest answer is to lengthen the course to four years.
As unpopular as that may be with regards to added fees and time taken to train nurses so desperately needed on the front line, do we just want feet on the ground or thoroughly trained, free-thinking nurse graduates?
I’m concerned that with the coming expansion of the curriculum, we can’t have our cake and eat it. To cultivate independent, courageous and skilled nursing takes time.
Both mentors and final placement students have admitted to me during placement visits that they had feelings of being under-prepared for registration. Resources going into preceptorship programmes are growing at an exponential rate to bring first post nurses ‘up to speed.’
The answer could be to take the time in the protected learning environment of an extended education to arm graduates with more experience and maturity. Now the apprenticeship model of nursing education has firmly arrived, higher education providers have become increasingly fluid with both exit and entry points into training.
”We can’t afford to further diminish the appeal of nursing education after the loss of bursary funding”
A three-year exit point could still exist for a nursing role, but could an additional year of study, to a four-year, degree-level course answer the question of when and where the advanced skills are going to be taught to students?
I’m sure this debate has been had before and will be heard again in future. The demands on student nurses are becoming larger and more foreboding. We cannot afford to further diminish the appeal of nursing education after the loss of bursary funding.
The nursing community need to consider the future of the nursing profession and one way to attract and retain great learners is to have a patient and graded learning experience that truly prepares graduates for registration.
Ian Dove is lecturer in adult nursing, University of Bedfordshire