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Birmingham trust takes nurse training online


A Midlands hospital trust has pioneered a new online training system for nurses which it believes could free up thousands of hours of time for patient care as well as saving money on agency staff.

Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust in Birmingham has been using the system, which allows 24 hours access to online skills assessment and training, for around 12 months. A second trust, University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, began adopting the system in April and a third is also understood to be interested.

The virtual interactive teaching and learning system – known as VITAL4Care – is based on similar technology used in universities. It currently covers 14 areas of core nursing care including falls, diabetes, tissue viability and medicines management.

More specialised sections for midwives, neonatal nurses and children’s nurses are in the process of being added.

Vanessa Lockyer-Stevens, principal educator at the trust’s faculty of nursing and midwifery, said she estimated the system would free up 65,000 hours per year for “hands on patient care”.

This is based on the trust’s 2,500 adult nurses spending two hours per year using the VITAL system to assess their skills and training needs instead of attending 28 hours per year of face to face training sessions. The trust predicts this will save £833,000 per year in costs on bank and agency staff normally needed to cover for face to face training.

However, Ms Lockyer-Stevens told Nursing Times the system was “designed to complement and reduce some of the burden” of face to face learning rather than replace it altogether. She said findings from a full evaluation of the project, expected in the spring, would look at what the trust’s ratio of online to face to face training might be in future.

Ms Lockyer-Stevens said initial findings from the project showed that most nursing staff were choosing to access the system at home rather than at work.

She said: “This could be for a number of reasons, among them the need to recognise that not all learners are nine to five. Some learners prefer to work in surroundings favourable to getting the best from the learning experience and that may mean quiet time at home.”  

She added that the trust’s chief nurse had guaranteed staff who used the system in their own time would get time off work in lieu.


Readers' comments (9)

  • Interesting that its clinical skills, thats new, but online training is not. The OU has been training mentors using online and distance learning for ages - not that new then!!!!

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  • i have been doing all my manatory training online for a number of years- and other skills based study- this is not new difference is its been developed in house- i guess this is some company developed scheme costing mega bucks

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  • We do a mix of 'virtual' and real training - some aspect of training need to be practised in real time e.g. CPR , fire extinguisher use, evacuation procedures, manual handling ect

    This is particularly important for the less experienced staff but also as a brush up for the 'old lags' who may have got into bad habits.

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  • I prefer time out in the classroom to meet face to face and exchange with peers and others working in other areas as well as meeting with tutors or lecturers with more or different experience and for a change of scene and perspective. I think this is also very important for professional and personal growth.

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  • Ellen Watters

    I work for a charity and we have had an online Nurse Learning Programme for some time. It is well used, university accredited and provides a certificate for CPD.

    Online is the way to go. I have mostly kept up my CPD in recent years with online certificates.

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  • i have to say that we have been completing online stat mand training and other skills based study at my trust for the past 2 years;most staff complete the training at home not at work as it is difficult to find time during the working day to complete this; i love the way the articles states:

    Vanessa Lockyer-Stevens, principal educator at the trust’s faculty of nursing and midwifery, said she estimated the system would free up 65,000 hours per year for “hands on patient care

    i would love to see how she worked this out; what assurance do you have that staff have even understood the training and if they complete this themselves as most staff tend to complete this at home; in any case having done this training; you don have to really read the or listen to the programme, you can let it run and if you fail the test at the end you can redo it until you pass;

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  • in addition the i would like to add that the author needs to make sure his articles are actually 'news' not stuff that has been tried and tested...

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  • In my personal experience on-line mandatory training is done as quickly as possible, noting down the information you think will be needed for the test at the end and then promptly forgetting the content afterwards.
    Face-to-face teaching brings personal experiences to the content to make it more alive and meaningful - for example, fire training is made much more memorable when it is done with an ex-firefighter sharing consequences of actions. Also, being able to ask questions to tailor the knowledge given also increases usefulness of training that cannot happen for most mandatory online training modules.
    I groan when it's time to do one again.

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  • Anonymous | 7-Feb-2012 9:02 am

    I agree with you.

    We've been doing online training for years. In certain situations, it can be an effective enough method.

    However, I am concerned that it is increasingly becoming a lazy and cheap way for trusts to fulfil their training obligations. Why use up valuable 'man hours' sending staff to courses and seminars, when they can do it at do at home and you don't have to pay them for it? And, it would appear, hadn't noticed that!

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