Routes into Nursing

My colleagues in London Medicine and Healthcare, a division of London Higher, have kindly prepared this piece for my blog.  Thanks, team!

London Higher’s Healthcare Education Group, which forms part of our London Medicine & Healthcare division, held an important discussion meeting in September 2018 focusing on the increasing number of routes into nursing. In addition to the three year nursing degree which can be offered as an undergraduate or postgraduate course, prospective nurses in London can also pursue qualifications to become a nurse associate, or – increasingly – undertake a nursing apprenticeship.

At the event a group of 30 individuals from across London’s higher education (HE) and health sectors came together to discuss the multiple routes potential nurses can pursue, and the challenges higher education institutions (HEIs) face in promoting, recruiting and delivering these programmes.

To open the session Professor Warren Turner, chair of the Healthcare Education Group and Pro Vice Chancellor/Dean, School of Health and Social Care, London Southbank University, delivered an introduction outlining the current landscape. Developing new routes into nursing requires close working between HEIs, NHS Trusts and other providers such as GP surgeries and care homes. The scale of London, with several HEIs, multiple NHS trusts and many other providers can mean it is a complex task to develop these new routes successfully in the capital.

During a panel session attendees heard from representatives from Health Education England, the CapitalNurse programme, Barts NHS Trust, and three current nursing students. CapitalNurse is focusing on advertising London as a desirable place to be a nurse as well as encouraging people to join the profession and working on clarifying the training routes. Barts NHS Trust hosts a high number of nursing students, and is closely monitoring attrition following the removal of the bursary for nursing students. They are keen to integrate different opportunities and shake up workforce models while ensuring there is no negative impact on quality of care provided.

There was strong support from the panel for nursing apprenticeships and nursing associates as an opportunity to promote flexible learning, and enable more candidates to start nursing training. An interesting fact was nursing apprenticeships receive the highest hit rate on the Health Careers website.

Some key themes to emerge from the panel session were the confusion felt within the sector and by students about the variety of routes and roles, and the need for clarity to stop the risk of deterring potential applicants. For example HEIs stated that individuals wanting to apply for a nursing apprenticeship programme had approached them directly, and were unaware that they needed the sponsorship of an employer such as a health Trust as an initial step, rather than directly approaching a HEI. Suggestions to achieve more clarity included improved signposting for students on what route may suit their personal circumstances best. The need for parity between the different routes was emphasised.

The three nursing students spoke of their passion and the resilience needed during their training, and discussed some practical things HEIs could do that could help other students. This led to discussions about students feeling as though they were ‘paying to train’ following the end of bursaries and the move to a fee-based system, and generational difference reflected in persistent attitudes that student nurses needed to ‘earn their stripes’.  Also, there were concerns that not affording student nurses the same degree of flexibility on placements as that afforded to members of staff can have negative impacts, particularly on students with caring responsibilities. There were also issues for student nurses struggling to find part time work that could fit around their schedule. The cost of living in London was highlighted as a particular issue for nursing students in the capital. Additionally, nursing students in London face an additional burden of needing to travel to their clinical placements, which are not always located near to their HEI.

After a detailed and thoughtful discussion the group moved on to table sessions, covering topics such as relationships with providers, recruitment to vulnerable subjects, overseas recruitment, placements, and course practicalities.

Finally the attendees had the opportunity to creatively feedback their key messages from the day via a poster. This was a successful event and we would like to thank all who attended for their insight and contributions.