Proposed changes to nurse education that may include a move towards more general training before specialist learning, could lead to a trade-off between these two skillsets, nursing academics have warned.
The Council of Deans of Health, which represents the heads of UK university faculties for nursing and midwifery, said that a “realistic” debate was needed on what could be achieved within the duration of an undergraduate course.
It said it was open to looking at the benefits and drawbacks of the four strands of specialisms that are currently on offer to students – adult nursing, children’s nursing, learning disability nursing and mental health nursing.
“We need to be realistic about what can be achieved in a three-year course”
However, the body noted that course leaders already had to work hard to integrate practice for students across these four fields within three years.
“If the plan is to keep initial education at its current length, we need to be realistic about what can be achieved in a three-year course and the trade-offs between generalist skills and specialism,” said Jessica Corner, chair of the Council of Deans.
Professor Corner’s comments come in response to a panel debate at the chief nursing officer for England’s summit at the end of November in Manchester. It discussed Health Education England’s current major review of nursing education, which is being led by Lord Phil Willis.
Speaking as part of the panel, Lord Willis – chair of the Shape of Caring Review – said he was looking at a new model of training that 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.
He suggested student nurses might undertake two years of general training before moving onto their preferred area of specialism in the third year, adding that there could be a wider range of these on offer.
Lord Willis also hinted that the review might recommend students are offered a further year of preceptorship once they have qualified.
Professor Corner added that discussions around undergraduate education should not deflect from addressing other issues around post-registration training.
“Pre-registration education is only the start of what should be a life-long experience of learning, but one that currently often lacks structure and funding,” she said.
“The Shape of Caring Review gives us a significant opportunity to address this, which we must not miss,” she added.
The review is due to publish its recommendations in spring 2015.
- Read more about Professor Corner’s views in this week’s Opinion piece: ‘Are we right to concentrate on prospective students’ values?’