The Mid Staffordshire scandal does not “loom over nursing education”, it looms over society (“The trials of service”, Features, 15 May) and to suggest otherwise blames people for their actions rather than considering the weight of unachievable tasks that society places on many professionals.
I was disappointed to see a lack of critique of the reason why the government wishes to move the training of professionals, including teachers, nurses and social workers, into the workplace and away from universities; the only reason is financial.
The government make a huge assumption that training in the workplace is cheaper and easier because the “trainers” are already doing the job and it is a simple matter of imparting that knowledge and practice to the learners. As all of us working in higher education know – it is not that simple.
A few years ago, one of my first-year nursing students told me and fellow students about an incident. She was on an elderly ward and a gentleman asked her to help him to the lavatory. She did this, supporting him against her as he was very frail. When he got to the lavatory, he died in her arms. The university part of her nursing programme provided her with peer support at the same stage of learning, a knowledge of anatomy and physiology and an understanding of the processes of dying and bereavement. The 50 per cent academic requirement of the programme is absolutely essential for enabling time and resources to assimilate learning from practice and theory.
Nursing, social work and teaching have direct impacts on people’s lives; society’s health, well-being and education depend on these professionals to provide the highest standards of intervention. To do this requires a particular level of education, an evidence and research base from which to draw to ensure best practice and an education of the whole person. Workplaces alone are insufficient to meet these requirements.
All nurses make invaluable contributions to student learning and development, nursing students spend 50 per cent of their programme in practice, but if this became 100 per cent could the NHS cope? Can teachers and social workers undertake their “day job” while researching and publishing? The knowledge and resource base of universities is essential, and to invest in this is an efficient and proper use of funding.
Lecturer, Faculty of Health Sciences
University of Southampton
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