Posted in achievement, Change, Debate, Development, Government, Health, Learning, Modern society, Skills, Thoughts

So What Improvements do We Need to Student Nurse Education?

Today, I want to discuss two points in relation to student nurse education. (Please bear with me as this has to be a longer blog post today to get the points across.)

It has been suggested by the Government that before an individual embarks upon nurse training that they should spend one year as health-care assistants so that they can learn compassion, care and have a better grasp of the basics of nursing. I would pose a question to you, as one who now work in education. Would you say that in order to train to be a teacher you have to become a teaching assistant first to understand children, their needs and how they might learn more effectively? No-one is suggesting this, so why nurses.

Yes, it can be strongly argued that having some ” grounding” in a care setting is helpful in giving you an edge, a valuable insight and knowing if nursing is for you. I can’t argue against that. I, for one, was a nursing auxiliary for ten months prior to student nurse training. However, many potential student nurses attending interview have done just that.It’s seen as having a possible advantage in being offered a place, if you have worked in, say a care home or as a nursing auxiliary. Yet, certainly when I was nursing ( up to 2010) there was an emphasis on basic-care needs that had to be met in order to pass one’s placement. Teachers learn to be teachers with one years post-graduate qualification after a first degree. Student nurses take three years. I would argue that student nurses have enough time to learn to be registered nurses if the quality of the theoretical and clinical teaching they receive is safe and effective. Any prior experience before this is very desirable but not essential.

This brings me to the second point and a potential flaw in the current system. The clinical teaching and assessment of student nurses is now in the hands of registered nurses themselves, mostly by staff-nurses working in an unit or ward. Many nurses are inspirational and dedicated teachers but many are not. Historically nurses have not been taught to be teachers in the same way that teachers have not been taught to be nurses in school. Teaching is a skill. I must add here though, that in order to be a mentor, nurses have to be qualified for at least one year and then go on to pass a three month teaching and assessing course at level three( degree level). In practice even with this, teaching quality can still be very varied. Personally, I loved being a mentor and felt that I gave the support and teaching that student nurses needed. I was passionate about it and did my very best. Every student nurse knows that a mentor, their attitude towards them and what they can provide in knowledge and experience, can make or break a placement. Every student nurse told me that, and I learned that first-hand again when I was a student midwife. 

Also, we now have what is called sign off mentors. So at the end of the students training their last placement has to be signed as passed and fit to practice by a sign- off mentor. This is not a clinical tutor but again a registered nurse. For me this was a half-days training on the paper work and the seriousness of what was being asked of, for those who were doing the signing off. That’s a lot of responsibility and means that the quality and safety of all the placements assessments have to be there, right from the word go!

Mentors know how hard it is to give the time, care and attention to student nurses in a busy and packed ward with stretching workloads and demands on time. Students stick to them like glue as they pursue their work, teaching on the spot and on the job. Most do their best. Lengthy student assessments have to be completed. Standards of assessments are much more rigouress in today’s nurse education. For me, back in the 1980’s, it was four small pieces of paper and tick boxes of accomplishments graded from outstanding to poor, now there are pages and pages of it. I am not saying the tick box was best practice either but I am making the point that, in theory, the standards of education are there but in practice it can vary widely from placement to placement and from one nurse mentor to the next.

Therefore,I would like to see the return of qualified clinical tutors in the work area working alongside mentors, supporting and helping them teach and these tutors easing the workload by taking charge more of the students and directing them in clinical area activities. Then I believe we can see the clinical quality of student nurse education improve…..


Tomorrow: moving on to being a staff nurse on a ward. What it was like for me. What I did back then and what staff nurses have to do now.




Committed to the education of children and the health and human rights of women and mankind. I also enjoy taking photographs and sometimes I write poetry.

4 thoughts on “So What Improvements do We Need to Student Nurse Education?

  1. As a non-clinically trained person I am not the best to make an authoritative comment. My overwhelming view is you CANNOT “TEACH” PEOPLE TO CARE – you either have it or you don’t. I recall many nurse friends telling me the profession was becoming too ‘classroom based’ when Project 2000 was introduced. The requirements for ANYONE who works in healthcare include the ability to empathise and care, show compassion while acting with complete integrity and professionalism. Quite a lot of qualities and I’m sure there are more – many people I know in the NHS do actually have all those qualities.

  2. I think we need more nurses on the wards, and we also need people who can speak English .. (maybe they do ) but they could not understand me. Like help me get out of bed for the loo, No one seemed to have time, .. for instance the lady opposite me.. was so sad, and hardly ate her meals, it was me the family asked , as no one else around to help her. One person (doctor or whatever) even told the family she was fine.. She was not , I was there.

    I was in the Trauma unit.. and it was so busy .. lots of people who seemed to be just there. I had to wait 3 days for my operation on my leg (NOT nurses fault) .. each day I was nil by mouth, until they either operated or cancelled… I was so hungry … I also lost lots of weight..

    So I cannot say that this is any of the nurses fault all… and just to say, the nurse or nurses I did have were great.

  3. Trevor.
    Thanks for the comments and yes, all those who work in the NHS need qualities of care and compassion. It is an interesting thought as to whether that person is automatically drawn towards this kind of profession. When asking why people desire to entre the profession, I have had answers of wanting to work with people as one such answer. The crucial question is:
    Has the graduate qualification at the end of the training now means that the wrong type of person want to entre the profession for the wrong reasons???
    The arguments will become more complex as this series unfolds and more questions will be asked by me.
    Thank you for todays discussion. It is very much welcome.

  4. Anne:
    You make several points that I will soon be coming onto. Busyness, lack of English speaking nurses, waiting for an operation.People not having time, poor communication. Sadly,all this is now a reality for the NHS. Please, keep giving me these comments as it shapes my future thinking as to how these blogs should go and what I need to say. Interesting thought that you are not blaming the nurses. You see dysfunction at a higher level. This is partly the problem. Thanks for todays feedback.

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