The need for primary care nurses to learn new skills has "never been more critical" than at the present time, according to a leading nurse education expert.
Professor Kathleen McCourt (pictured), Deputy Chair of the Northern Region of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), said that changes in the labour market, caused by the current recession, and recent "dire" breaches of care standards meant that continuous professional development (CPD) – or "lifelong learning" – was more important then ever.
Addressing several hundred practice and community nurses at the Nursing in Practice Newcastle Event held yesterday (22 April 2009), Professor McCourt said it was essential that nurses "cultivate an aptitude for learning new skills"
"Nursing careers are not stagnant any more; they are changing all the time," she told delegates, advising them to set themselves personal learning objectives and dust down their CPD portfolios.
Speaking of the need for personalised development, Professor McCourt – who holds a professorial chair in Nurse Leadership and Workforce Development and Education – said that nurses should take control of their learning to advance their careers in the direction they wish.
She also said that managers need to recognise the importance of nurses' continual learning, to allow time for this, and that nurses should encourage other practitioners, who may be wary of change, to update their skills.
Ultimately, Professor McCourt said, professional development benefits patients and there was a direct link between lifelong learning and care standards. "Good education will advance the quality of patient care," she said.
Professor McCourt was the keynote speaker at the Nursing in Practice Event held at the Newcastle Racecourse. Her speech was followed by presentations by expert speakers on a wide range of different clinical and professional topics, including sexual health, antenatal and newborn screening, childhood obesity, information sharing and the role of nurses in alcohol reduction.
The Newcastle conference was the latest in the series of Nursing in Practice Events, which tour the UK and focus on primary care nursing. Events in Belfast and Glasgow have already taken place this year, and further events will take place in Manchester, Cardiff, London and Birmingham.
Introducing the Newcastle event, Marilyn Eveleigh, a lead nurse and consultant editor of Nursing in Practice, paid tribute to Elizabeth Yareham, the chief organiser of the Nursing in Practice Events, who died unexpectedly last week at the age of 37. Ms Yareham was described as a "fireball" character, whose energy and professionalism had been key to the success of the events, and who would be sorely missed.
Your comments (terms and conditions apply):
"Just to say thanks very much for an interesting conference at Newcastle racecourse last week, really enjoyed and learned something too. Thanks for the opportunity to download presentations; really appreciate this option." - Maureen Armstrong, Northumbria
"I have regular tutorials with my GP mentor; I choose the subject to make it relavent to my work. I am lucky in that my practice is very proactive in this regard. In previous practices, the GP couldn't care less; they expected nurses to study in their own time and were not interested in being part of my learning. I did an MSc five years ago, all in my own time, with no backup from the GPs. I am happy where I am now and I'm glad that I made the move" – Anne Robinson, Kidderminster
"I have always been keen to keep up-to-date and learn new skills, but my GP employer does not support me to do it. There appears to be no structure for unsupported nurses to gain access to further training without being referred back to their employer for 'support'. This effectively strangleholds professional development of many unsupported nurses in general practice where their GP employers are often not interested in listening to how nursing is 'advancing'" – Lynne Hayward, Manchester
"I am very pleased to see this article. Alas, I recently applied and got funding to do a masters degree, which would enhance my practice and benefit my employer, but they would not endorse it. This I feel is in some cases very short-sighted and adds pressure to those of us striving to update our skills and further our careers. I am now working in Australia!" – Pat Randall, Australia
"Not until recent years have I had time, but not encouragement and support from my seniors and colleages. I insisted and put much of my spare time in nursing, I am frustrated whenever my friends told me that it's better to enjoy life" – Amy, Hong Kong
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