This article highlights a ‘hands on’ approach to the recruitment of prospective students interested in pre-registration nursing courses (specifically adult nursing). The taster days have been extremely successful in attracting individuals to undertake a nursing programme, due to the nature of enabling them to experience a taste of nursing, whilst undertaking supervised activities in clinical skills laboratories.
This article aims to provide an overview of an adult nursing taster day. The taster days were introduced as a direct result of sharing innovative ways of recruiting and retaining student nurses and midwives with our midwifery colleagues. The midwives had already successfully undertaken a couple of midwifery taster days (Snow 2005). With this shared information we decided to build upon this concept and deliver adult nursing taster days.
The taster days followed a structured interactive format so that potential nursing students could experience a ‘hands on’ approach to the introduction of adult nursing. In addition, we also provided all the information needed to enable the participants to make an informed decision about a career in nursing, which included guidance on the application process. The responses we received at the end of the day from the written evaluation forms which were completed by the participants, reflected how well received the days were, and a selection of the comments have been included in box 2.
Within the Institute of Health, Social Care and Psychology recruitment to our pre-registration courses have always been positive, with the commissioned numbers from the local Strategic Health Authority being met, through both the bursary and trust scholarship routes.
However, our concerns were more about retention rates for students and providing a positive student experience. According to Deary et al (2003) the reasons for students leaving nursing programmes have been varied, but essentially it appears that students have fed back that nursing programmes have not lived up to their expectations.
This has been because they were not aware of the realities involved within nursing. Some of these aspects have been about study at diploma/degree level, whilst working fulltime in healthcare placements. In addition, student age ranges vary with a large majority being mature students who were exploring a change in career.
With maturity come life experiences, but this also means that many of the students found that they were juggling their social/home life and this compounded the stress already experienced studying fulltime and recognising how emotionally demanding nursing was (McGuire 2004).
This is where the taster days aimed to provide a realistic prospective and create an awareness about the realities of a full-time nursing course. Snow (2005) has quite rightly referred to students being ill prepared about the academic and practical challenges that students face. Mature students in particular suffer a lack of confidence that is shared by many potential adult students and according to McGuire (2004) is one of the greatest barriers faced by mature students who are considering returning to education.
This is why we believe that taster days are essential because they provide a good insight into the challenges that they may potentially face (Snow, 2005 & Jeens 2004). It ensures that they have their ‘eyes opened’ and their expectations realised by having the opportunity to ask questions and discuss their concerns with existing nursing students who have experienced these challenges first hand.
The day also helps to augment the requirements for direct patient care, which is stipulated as any entry requirement for the adult nursing programme at this institution and encouraged by the NMC (2004). The potential students also observe demonstrated clinical skills and are then able to gain ‘hands on’ experience and learning using clinical equipment under the supervision within the clinical skills laboratories.
Format of Taster Days
The taster days are currently offered three times a year and are always oversubscribed, which has meant that we have also provided evening sessions to enable people who are working during the day, more flexibility and opportunity to attend a session. Box 1.
Overview of the adult pre-registration programme (course content, work-based learning and assessment schedule etc)
Supervised skills practice (blood pressure, temperature, pulse etc) in a clinical skills laboratory.
The format of the taster days provides the opportunity for potential candidates to discuss the realities of becoming an adult nurse. The questions that were raised with the existing nursing student nurse ambassadors reflected the very real concerns that potential new students had, about the nursing course such as coping with theoretical aspects of the programme.
This appeared to be pertinent given that some of the potential candidates had been out of education for some time. There were also questions regarding successfully meeting competencies within practice placements and the role of clinical mentors. Financial concerns were voiced, especially how to survive on a bursary and meeting childcare arrangements.
However, reassurance was given in the way of practical and helpful advice from the students currently on the course with the existing students accurately portraying the challenges and expectations for adult nurses (Snow 2005). For virtually all the candidates, the most exciting part of the day was taking part in the supervised practical skills sessions.
These workshops were interactive and were facilitated by both nurse lecturers and student nurses. Involvement of nurse lecturers and student nurses facilitating these skills workshops aimed to enhance and strengthen the teaching and learning relationship that exists within the Institute thus providing a rich experience for all concerned (NMC 2004, Snow 2005).
The types of skills that were demonstrated were how to take a blood pressure using an electronic dynamap and taking a temperature using handheld auditory equipment. In addition, we also encouraged candidates to participate in basic life support utilising the manikins to demonstrate cardiac compressions and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation skills. We also had other pieces of equipment on display and had set up the skills laboratories as an example of a six bedded bay within a ward in a hospital.
A sample of written evaluation responses
‘ An interesting and informative taster day! It helped me to decide that I definitely want to pursue my nursing career at this University’. (Student had applied and visited several Universities).
‘ Thoroughly enjoyed this taster day. I’ve been trying to decide for a long time if nursing is for me and today has shown me that it definitely is! The best part for me was being able to use some of the equipment and listening to the student nurses and knowing that they had worries and fears about starting too!’
It was clear that the template that had been so successfully used by our midwifery colleagues, had inspired and encouraged the adult nurse lecturers to build upon the concept, which appeared to transfer effectively for the adult nursing taster days. As predicted, the potential candidates engaged with the student nurse ambassadors from the Institute with the question and answer session.
In addition, the candidates were actively involved in the ‘hands on’ clinical skills session, which were facilitated by both adult nurse lecturers and our student nurse ambassadors. Evaluation was an important tool to enable us to receive feedback that would enable us to modify aspects of the taster days to ensure a positive learning experience (Jeens 2004).
The written evaluations, a sample of which can be seen in box 2, were extremely positive and confirmed that this type of recruitment activity was valuable in encouraging potential candidates into adult nursing pre-registration programmes. It is the intention of the authors to follow through these potential candidates, to monitor if those students who were successful at the end of the course had in fact, initially attended a taster day.
This information would be extremely useful in both the recruitment and retention of future nursing students. However, ultimately potential candidates are able to receive a more balanced, realistic insight into becoming an adult registered nurse.
Authors of this article
Karen Latimer RGN, MSc, BA, Dip in Couns – Senior Lecturer at the Institute of Health, Social Care and Psychology, University of Worcester.
University of Worcester
Telephone: 01905 8555379
Robert Dudley RGN, BSc (Hons), PG Dip (HE), MA(Ed)
Programme Leader: Pre Registration Nursing Studies at theInstitute of Health, Social Care and Psychology, University of Worcester.
University of Worcester
Telephone: 01905 8555235
Deary, I, Watson, R & Hogston, R (2003) A longitudinal cohort study of burnout and attrition in nursing students. Journal of Advanced Nursing. Blackwell Publishing Ltd. UK.
Jeens, A (2004) Students learn about caring. Practice Nurse. 7/9/2004. Vol 28 issue 1 p5-5
Snow, S (2005) Midwifery Taster days. The official Journal of the Royal College of Midwives. Vol 8 No 4 p170-171.
Nursing & Midwifery Council (2004) Standards of Proficiency for pre-registration nursing education. NMC. London.
McGuire, R (2004) Back to School. Nursing Standard. March 10.Vol 18. No 26. p20-21.