Nurse’s roles and nurse education continues to change at a rapid rate. Nobody can dispute that many nurses embrace the need for change and constantly strive to improve and develop their practice often without adequate support or funding. But are things set to change following the recent Willis Commission Report (2012)?
I for one feel optimistic about many of its recommendations and feel the future is bright for those working in primary and community care. For many years such settings have been striving to provide good quality placements and mentoring for nursing students, but often without resources and a robust infrastructure to support the time and effort needed to provide mentorship in places such as GP practices and other community settings where students can access a wealth of expertise and experiences to support their learning.
The Willis report identifies a number of key areas which need to be addressed to improve this situation and gain a balance across primary and secondary care. These include:
1. The future nursing workforce - recognising the value of skills mix and the need for minimum standards of education for all healthcare professionals who deliver care.
2. Degree-level registration and the need for dispelling the myth that degree education produces nurses who care less - this is not apparent in other professions who have had degree status for many years.
3. Learning to nurse - learning does not only take place in the classroom and acknowledges the need for redressing the balance between learning in University and clinical placements. Importantly, Lord Willis acknowledges the need for more placements in primary care in settings such as GP surgeries, and also the need to address years of lack of funding for Mentors to provide such valuable placements for both pre-registration students and post registration.
4. Continuing professional development (CPD) and the importance of multi-professional learning are acknowledged as is the need to ensure the Nursing and Midwifery Council standards on preceptorship are fully implemented in the first year of qualifying - a time I am sure we all remember with trepidation as well as pride!
5. Patient and public involvement is identified as crucial in the future of nurse education and many HEIs like mine already ensure they are involved in monitoring and evaluation as well as speaking to students on a wide range of topics to enhance their learning experience, eg. patients with a long-term condition share their experiences. Once again it is recognised that funding is crucial to support placement providers whatever the setting and that this should not rely on goodwill as in the past. There is a vast untapped resource out here which if utilised effectively will have a major impact on nurse education and the future workforce in primary and community care.
6. Infrastructure and the need to assess organisations and improve partnerships with healthcare providers and regulators is highlighted as is the need to improve and monitor the culture within healthcare organisations, which links closely with the recent CNO’s Strategy 'Compassion in Practice' (2012) which recognises the 6C’s’ – Care, Compassion, Competence, Communication, Courage and Commitment as crucial elements to deliver high quality patient care and I would urge you all to read it!
So the future looks bright for nurse education and is a wonderful opportunity for primary and community care settings to be at last recognised as an essential element of nurse education for the future. A Happy New Year to you all!
RGN, BSc Hons, MSc, PGC/AP, Fellow of HEA, senior lecturer, Manchester Metropolitan University
Donna is a senior lecturer in the Faculty of Health, Psychology & Social Care at Manchester Metropolitan University. With over 25 years experience in the NHS in both secondary and primary care she has worked as a practice nurse and practice nurse lead at a Primary Care Trust in the North West.
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