Newly qualified nurses and midwives are competent and should be given greater credit for their skills.
That is the key finding of a newly published study, "Nursing and Midwifery in Scotland: Being Fit for Practice", which is the largest and most comprehensive review of nursing and midwifery education in Scotland.
The researchers have concluded that newly qualified nurses and midwives are fit for practice at the point of registration, despite common perceptions within health care that students do not have the necessary skills.
Professor William Lauder, Head of Nursing and Midwifery at the University of Stirling, led the study, which was commissioned by NHS Education for Scotland (NES) to examine the success of implementation of the UKCC Commission for Nursing and Midwifery Education’s report Fitness for Practice (1999). Researchers from the universities of Dundee, Salford and Sheffield, and NHS Fife, also contributed to the findings.
Professor Lauder said: “It is clear that newly qualified nurses and midwives should be given greater credit for the skills they have acquired in training.
“The debate about the competence of newly qualified nurses and midwives has a long and contentious history, but much of this has relied on anecdote, personal experience and entrenched opinion, rather than evidence. Ward managers often have low expectations of newly qualified nurses, who themselves can feel poorly prepared for their new role.
“Fitness for Practice has been central to developments in nurse and midwifery education for nearly a decade. It was seen as the vehicle to introduce clinical skills more extensively and at an earlier point in the curriculum, and we have been able to confirm that it has, on the whole, been a successful curriculum model.
“What we found is that there is a high level of important key skills, demonstrating that the pre-registration curriculum is producing students who are competent.
“Although there are still areas for improvement in curriculum development and delivery, these positive findings represent a fundamental shift from the largely negative findings reported in earlier UK studies.”
The report makes 27 recommendations to improve the preparation of nurses and their time in practice, pointing out that an apparent lack of confidence in some newly qualified practitioners should not be confused with a lack of competence. It also calls for greater acknowledgement of the support provided to students by mentors.