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Striving for excellence

If I had a pound for every student who said “I'm not academic” I would be a millionaire!

The Chambers Dictionary (2007) define academic as a person fond of or having an aptitude for intellectual pursuits. Being a nurse today means constantly striving to maintain your knowledge and competence and keep abreast of new and different ways of working and I would suggest as we have moved to an all graduate profession having the ability to acquire new knowledge is a skill they all have. Acquiring new knowledge and skills is something all nurses do everyday although I would suggest sometimes it is not recognised!

Learning is what makes nursing such a wonderful profession as the opportunities are immense. During my nursing career I have had the opportunity to learn a wide range of clinical skills, leadership and management, mentorship and more recently teaching skills. What other profession enables you to diversify in so many ways?

So instead of feeling that you are not “academic” see every opportunity to learn as a way of improving both the care you give but also your own professional development and future career. Having a degree can open up new opportunities in a variety of ways and as the NHS and health care continues to change these opportunities will increase rapidly. Use your appraisal and Personal Development Review (PDR) to really think about what you want to achieve and do in the coming year. Contact your local universities who will be spending the summer planning and thinking about different ways of supporting clinical staff out in practice. There will be short study days or workshops, units and modules or degree and Masters programmes. The key is to find something that works for you and fits in with your busy work/ life balance. 

Here in the North West a number of Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) are collaborating to provide a Foundation programme for new practice nurses in recognition of Health Education England's commitment to developing the healthcare workforce, particularly in primary and community care where significant gaps have been identified.

So find out how you can access CPD opportunities in your area. The five domains Health Education England have identified set out what is expected and give clear direction around education and training ensuring funding is equally distributed across the health care sector so funding should no longer be a barrier for some professional groups. 

Time as always is an issue for all health care staff and as such a wide variety of learning methods are now available as well as different times e.g. evening classes and on line learning. 

Gaining new knowledge, skills and confidence in what you do can only ultimately impact upon the care you give, ensuring that patients' receive the best, evidence based, high quality care. Students' I talk to say they find academia challenging but the rewards and feeling of achievement are worth it. They also talk of learning much more than they expected in that they develop good networks and have the opportunity to share good practice, develop confidence in areas such as IT and most of all feel well supported both by the HEI and clinical practice Mentors and teachers all of which contributes to a workforce that feels valued and enabled to strive for excellence!