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How can student nurses with dyscalculia be supported?

  • Comments (353)
  • Article: Kirk K, Payne B (2012) Dyscalculia: awareness and student support. Nursing Times; 108: 37, 16-18.

Key points

  • Dyscalculia is a difficulty with the concept of numbers
  • The condition has significant implications for pre-registration nurse education
  • Students with dyscalculia need to be identified and have their learning needs assessed
  • Through reasonable adjustments, a person with dyscalculia can successfully train to become a nurse
  • Ongoing mentorship helps dyscalculic nurses cope with learning

Let’s discuss

  • Define dyscalculia and outline how it affects people in their personal life.
  • How does dyscalculia affect student nurses’ ability to provide patient care? List the activities that could be a problem in your area of practice.
  • What reasonable adjustments should be made to support a student with dyscalculia?
  • What responsibilities do potential employers have to ensure nurses with dyscalculia are supported in their area of practice?
  • Comments (353)

Readers' comments (353)

  • MeThinks

    To start with, separate people with a genuine physiological restriction on their ability to work with numbers, from those who were very badly taught maths.

    Those who are bothered by numbers, because they were badly taught, can be shown that if you think in the right way about numbers, calculations make sense and are no more terrifying than reading a sentence and trying to understand it is.

    Dyscalculia as a brain variation, might need to be addressed by a restriction of duties.

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  • Anonymous

    http://www.khanacademy.org/exercisedashboard

    teaching maths skills and exercise dashboard

    may be useful

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  • michael stone

    At the moment, I think all hcps urgently need to also understand the difference between Real numbers and Imaginary Numbers.

    So far as I can see, PFI can only be made to add up, if you feed into it imaginary numbers. So various decision-makers, must be using imaginary numbers when it suits them.

    Decisions about the NHS should be made using real numbers - if we let people get away with making decisions based on imaginary numbers, then we will end up with an imaginary NHS !

    PS I suspect Tink will like this one, if she reads it - not a joke, but having the appearance of a joke while being deadly serious !

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  • Anonymous

    Attn: Michael Stone

    in case the article at the top escaped your notice


    "LET’S DISCUSS
    Define dyscalculia and outline how it affects people in their personal life.
    How does dyscalculia affect student nurses’ ability to provide patient care? List the activities that could be a problem in your area of practice.
    What reasonable adjustments should be made to support a student with dyscalculia?
    What responsibilities do potential employers have to ensure nurses with dyscalculia are supported in their area of practice?"

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  • michael stone

    Anonymous | 13-Sep-2012 12:52 pm

    Dyscalculia is being discussed elsewhere on this site - my off-topic comment, is still relevant to the way the NHS is being torn to shreds at present.

    By the way, your post didn't discuss dyscalculia either, so it is also off-topic !

    I tend to agree with the points in MeThinks | 12-Sep-2012 12:41 pm - especially with

    Dyscalculia as a brain variation, might need to be addressed by a restriction of duties

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  • tinkerbell

    DH Agent - as if ! | 13-Sep-2012 11:44 am

    Mike, i have heard back from the annual general meeting of the pixie council and there is nothing they can do about the NHS going to hell. Sorry about that. They have their own agenda.

    As far as maths is concerned I also find its purity magical and the patterns that emerge, i would love to be brilliant at maths, but am just average, but safe in my calculations. If ever unsure i would always check it out. The patients safety is more important than my ego.

    I think it sad that someone with a 'diagnosed' brain variation which makes it difficult for them to do basic maths and think they should be given support of course, but realistically don't think this will be forthcoming.

    Who is going to offer them support if they are the only qualified nurse on duty out of hours and at weekends, and then if something goes wrong who is going to support them. I think they are being set up to fail.

    We can't all be good at everything and i think it must be a case of different horses for different courses, but as i become more and more of a tablet dispensing machine and less and less able to do hands on care, due to all my time being taken up dispensing morning meds, then lunch meds, then writing up notes, co-ordinating a shift and ticking boxes and completing supervision and mandatory training and appraisals whilst working as the only qualified on most shifts, even i don't get any support, so don't think managers are going to offer support to people who need extra input.

    In my experience it's sad but true that even nurses who need extra input for other reasons aren't getting it.

    Much better to go into another profession where you can use other talents you may have than bash your head against a brick wall where basic maths are an absolute requirement and not have any support.

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  • tinkerbell | 13-Sep-2012 6:17 pm

    Yes, although I'm not a nurse, and not hugely informed about nursing, I'm pretty sure you are right (about all of that, as well) when you posted:

    'In my experience it's sad but true that even nurses who need extra input for other reasons aren't getting it.'

    This (these) is well off-topic (so our respective followers might be back) but I am seriously annoyed at the way the NHS likes to replace expertise with copious 'guidance' (often some sort of tick-box list). Only some of these lists make sense in terms of preventing mistakes and improving care, and a lot of them are apparently much more concerned with 'back-covering'.

    I honestly don't know, what the solution to this is: I would prefer well-trained and expert staff, who used their knowledge and experience to get on with things and who made very few mistakes, but had to personally defend any mistakes they made. But that assumes a high-level of training and competence - and I'm not convinced that is the situation at present in the NHS. If the expertise is not up to it, I reluctantly tend towards 'idiot-proof tick-box behaviour' as the alternative which then leads to fewer mistakes.

    Personally, I'm still haggling with the people who are writing flawed guidance in my area of interest - I think the guidance in that area could be clearer, shorter and more correct, if it were written with a rather different 'approach' and in less jargonistic language (somehow, it starts with the right elaboration of principles, and becomes distorted and contradictory as the principles are 'further explained' - this sems weird, but the lengthier the guidance becomes, the less correct and less easily understandable it becomes{there is probably a general law in there}).

    But I have got tremendous sympathy for nurses - despite nurses' claim that nursing is an autonomous profession, it seems to me that nurses actually sit in an uneasy space between doctors and patients, and that nurses don't have the clout of doctors when arguing with managers and politicians. You seem to get pushed and pulled in all directions, at once.

    They have their own agenda. Nice one !

    My point about maths, wasn't so much its purity and beauty being magical (and I'm not good at maths either - although we might define 'not good' differently), it was more that I believe a lot of people become terrified of numbers, because they were not given enough time learning the basics at school. That is effectively a sort of induced phobia of numbers, not dyscalculia - I'm sure this must be the case for some people, because if you aren't scared of 1, 10, 100, 1000 you can see what is happening there, etc. I hated foreign languages at school, because my memory was awful - and nobody ever explained to me how I could remember foreign words, when I couldn't remember them ! So I 'hid at the back' for languages - I'm sure something similar, happens with maths.

    However, at the risk of being un-pc, there is some research that suggests that women are somewhat less good at pattern recognition than men (true for boys/girls from an early age): it seems females look at the fine detail more, and males are more aware of the overall shape of things. So seeing the patterns in numbers, is probably a bit easier for males on average.

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  • Juggling Dog

    tinkerbell, just wondering if you’ve got your wall back yet ?

    It won’t be long before the wild haggis are looking for a nice, warm place to hibernate. No problem for your dogs, but an adult male haggis can rip a cat to pieces – I can only assume that Rabbie was familiar with the domesticated variety on haggis farms, and not their wild cousins !

    And once they get in, you’ve got the dual problems that they like to hibernate in roosts, like some bats, and are also a protected species since the 2004 (Scotland) Protection of Rare Species act.

    You need to get that wall, back up, I think.

    I happened to be chasing haggis a few weeks ago – originally a group of 6, but they split up into two groups, with 3 going one way and 2 another, and they all got away.

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  • michael stone

    By the way, the comment at 14-Sep-2012 11:46 am
    was mine (Mike Stone) - I've no idea how a comment managed to appear, with only the time of its posting.

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  • King Vulture

    Juggling Dog | 14-Sep-2012 1:48 pm

    All that evolution, and you dogs just don't seem to learn, do you ?

    Haggis are much too fast for you lot - surely their 6 legs is a clue. That is why Golden Eagles, are their only natural predator.

    And you still appear to have not cottoned on, that we birds will fly away just before you get to us.

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