A major shake-up of nurse education could see students spend more years learning general nursing skills than at present but be able to choose from a larger pool of areas to specialise in afterwards.
Current student nurse education that sees them specialise in one of four areas leaves them in “silos” and will fail to “adequately prepare” them for the future varied role that will be required , according to those leading a high-powered review into the education and training of nurses and healthcare assistants in England.
“Four strands do not prepare us adequately for what is going to be a very varied role for nursing in future”
Speaking at the chief nursing officer’s summit in Manchester last week, members of the group leading the review said they were looking into a new model of training to address such concerns.
Proposals could see student nurses undertake two years of general training before moving onto their preferred area of specialism in the third year, said Lord Phil Willis, who is chairing the Shape of Caring Review for Health Education England.
He said he was considering whether these two years of general training needed to be much more “intense” and “practical” than the current provision.
Lord Willis also hinted that he might recommended students should in the future be able to choose from a wider range of specialisms than the four that are currently on offer – adult nursing, children’s nursing, learning disability nursing and mental health nursing.
One of the extra options could be a community strand, he suggested, adding that model he was looking at also included a further year, post-qualification, of preceptorship.
Lord Willis said: “We are going to see a significant shift into more community and domiciliary care – that’s a fact.
“Much of the evidence I have received so far, right across the country, has said the four strands do not prepare us adequately for what is going to be a very varied role for nursing in future,” he said.
He suggested newly-qualified nurses, who had specialised in children’s or adult nursing, currently “struggled” when working with patients with mental health issues.
Lisa Bayliss-Pratt, director of nursing at Health Education England, said: “Certainly what we’re finding from the Shape of Caring Review – and the work we’ve been doing talking to students, trainee nurses and the public – is there is a feeling that the four branches of nurses need to be explored.
“We are putting people into silos very early on in their career,” she added.
The review is due to publish its recommendations by the end of January.