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Wider concepts keep learning interesting

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I suppose everyone sees nurse training in their own way. I like to think of it as consisting of two lines of activity. The first is practical – the acquisition of skills. The second is educational – the grasp of concepts.

I often meet students who could do without the conceptual stuff. Following a tradition that goes back to Florence Nightingale, they see their progress in terms of an accumulation of more or less discrete skills such as washing patients, moving them, giving injections, taking and recording observations, and so on.

To me, that does not represent the last word on the subject but I can see its merits. Not least, it chimes with the modern Roper-Logan-Tierney model of nursing whereby 12 crucial ‘activities of living’ are identified, and a list of associated nursing skills taught and carried out in relation to them. It’s neat, clear and practical, and can make for truly excellent nursing.

Yet I still prefer a training approach that accommodates both practical and conceptual components in equal measure.

Why should this be? To me it all comes down to a question of motivation. If I am faced with learning a practical skill, my motivation starts high and rises until I accomplish it. Then repetition makes it routine and finally dull and mechanical.

But conceptual development takes me in ever-widening intellectual circles that keep my interest at a peak. For instance,

I consider the cost of a new treatment and I find myself in the area of economics, or I examine patient attitudes to illness and I am caught up in psychology. And so on with ergonomics, sociology, statistics and all the various subjects that share borders with nursing.

The benefits of conceptual development are not always obvious but for me it means nursing can never lose its unique appeal.

Lesley McHarg is a third-year nursing student in Scotland

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