Numerical skills are key for modern nurses

April 11, 2003

Nurses need better mathematical skills if they are to fulfil roles in a modern health service, a report from the Learning and Teaching Support Network says.

Universities should develop a framework for "learning, teaching and assessment that can be employed across the UK nursing education field", says the report Competence in Practice-based Calculation: Issues for Nursing Education.

Mike Sabin, author of the report and a lecturer in the faculty of health and life science at Napier University, said: "This would be a framework of best practice that would cover learning in both the classroom and on the ward."

The report says the relative status of numeracy support within nursing programmes should be raised and that remedial programmes should be supported through university-wide initiatives.

Mr Sabin said that nurses needed computational skills and conceptual ones.

"Much of the concern about numeracy focuses on drug administration but nurses also need to understand the maths they are doing so that they can assess quantative research for themselves."

Nursing courses attract a more diverse population than in the past. "It would, therefore, be wrong to say that mathematical skills have declined among nurses. In fact, the A-level entry grades would indicate otherwise.

Rather nurses are drawn from a more diverse population. Students' numeracy skills should be assessed early on and students should be offered support."

But the report warns: "Using success in numeracy/mathematics tests or school qualifications as prerequisites for entry to pre-registration nursing courses may be prejudicial to many potentially competent nurses."

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