Undergraduate educational standards for nurses and midwives
How do we best educate our future nurses and midwives so they are fit and ready for the future? This is a question which concerns all of us.
The structure of undergraduate education for both has long been regulated by an EU directive which stipulates the experience they must gain, the settings they must have placements in, and how many clinical placements hours they must undertake during their training.
The UK’s exit from the EU, whatever you think of it, provides an opportunity to rethink some of these. As the voice for well over a hundred thousand registered nurses and midwives we have an important role to play in this debate.
We surveyed you to try to better understand how you felt about nursing and midwifery education and a great number of you responded. Thank you for sharing your perspectives and knowledge with us.
Most of you felt there needed to be more support and time for those educating students in practice. You clearly felt that quality time in practice was crucial for development although many of you pointed out that students often don’t get that quality time for a number of reasons.
In general views were mixed on the use of simulation in education with many commenting that it had to be funded fully and implement carefully. There was almost no support for reducing the length of nursing or midwifery degrees.
We carefully considered your views together with the elected members of our nursing and midwifery occupational group committee. We then put our recommendations clearly and forcefully to the NMC as part of their stakeholder discussions.
We believe the position they have come to, which has been approved by their council, is sensible. They will not dramatically change the regulatory framework currently, other than expanding the role of simulation as part of clinical learning, though they have committed to working closely with stakeholders such as ourselves on this. Some requirements will be removed from regulation though this should not affect the entry levels to courses or the length of programmes.
Senior UNISON nurses are continuing to help us input to this area and we will continue to advocate for regulation which maximises quality nursing and midwifery education.
Post-registration community nursing qualifications
The NMC has also recently conducted a consultation on their regulation of community and public health nurses. The NMC recognises specialist standards of proficiency and post-registration qualifications for nurses working in these areas. However, numbers accessing these qualifications and progressing onto the special sections of the register have stagnated and in some cases fallen in recent years.
This is a controversial debate within nursing with some groups accusing the NMC of possibly weakening standards through some of their proposals. Officers within the UNISON Health Team have consulted with these groups and talked through the issue closely with the NMC. We have debated this with our nursing and midwifery committee and discussed with senior UNISON nurses working in community roles.
We responded to the consultation making clear some of our concerns in the NMC proposals and urging them to take steps to work with stakeholders to address these. We will now have a place on the steering group overseeing this post-registration work and have put forward UNISON members to work on groups looking closely at the standards. You can read our consultation response here under ‘Resources’ – https://www.unison.org.uk/at-work/health-care/representing-you/nursing/
We have worked closely with students and newly qualified nurses and midwives in UNISON throughout the pandemic. A number began to raise concerns with us about the disrupted learning environment and the struggles of maintaining good standards of work when newly qualified because of the current working pressures. You can read more about these experiences first-hand in another article in this newsletter by UNISON Nurse Joy O’Gorman.
We surveyed our membership on this in the summer and have published a report on the findings which you can read here under ‘Resources’ – ‘NQN NQM Support during Covid-19’- https://www.unison.org.uk/at-work/health-care/representing-you/nursing/
Subsequently our Nursing and Midwifery Committee brought a motion to our recent special online health conference, calling for us to do more campaigning and influencing to support these groups. This demanded regular, protected study time for newly qualified nurses and midwives, a guaranteed super-numerary period and time to with clinical leaders.
In England we have instigated a group to look at this issue closely with Health Education England, the CNO team, NHS Employers and the NMC. We co-produced guidance for NHS Trusts with NHS Employers and have successfully lobbied for more funding and resources to go towards preceptorship. Our colleagues in Scotland, Cymru / Wales and Northern Ireland are also working on this issue. We are planning more public campaigning with partners to highlight this issue and the need for support in the transition into qualified practice.
In our national health team at UNISON we work closely with colleagues in our policy team and our dedicated Professional Services Unit on issues of professional regulation.
It is crucial for public services, for healthcare, and for all of our nursing family in particular that professional regulation is fair, effective and proportionate. Too often however that is not the case. We regularly liaise with our Professional Services Unit to highlight areas of concern to professional regulators and will continue to do so.
During the last year we contributed detailed insight and experience to the Department of Health and Social Care as they review the regulatory landscape in healthcare and consider how it could be reformed. You can read our response to their consultation here, under ‘Resources’ – UNISON Response – Regulating healthcare professionals (https://www.unison.org.uk/at-work/health-care/representing-you/nursing/).
We have worked with MPs and others to monitor the progress of the Health and Social Care Bill for England in parliament and to influence it for the better. You can read about this work from our Head of Health, Sara Gorton, here https://www.unison.org.uk/blogs/2021/09/blog-why-the-health-and-care-bill-is-so-important/
UNISON wouldn’t be able to continue this important work without the support and expertise of our members and elected representatives, many of whom have contributed over and above on this in the last year. In particular, we need to thank Lynda Carey for her work on the NMC education and post-registration standards, Gamu Nyasoro for supporting us to help overseas nurses better, and Joy O’Gorman and Natalie Elliot for their extra help with student issues.
UNISON National Officer for Nursing