Working and learning – equal measures?

I love my job. I don’t always like it but I do love what I do. I always have done.  The most interesting part is that I didn’t choose to go into nursing. I sort of found it by accident really, but it was a fantastic journey of privilege and pride spanning twenty years,  working in Liverpool, London and now Manchester.   Caring for children and their families in complex situations was both humbling and rewarding in equal measures.  Now I work in higher education teaching undergraduate student nurses on degree programmes in the main. But sometimes I worry about the pressures we put nursing students under today. Having to manage the theoretical components of an undergraduate course of study with the ‘messy’ complexities of clinical practice is hard. And recent evidence from the Higher Education Authority (HEA) suggests that the average age of student entrants for degree programmes is 25 years with 17% coming from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, so many come with multiple life experiences, they are not fresh from leaving school and they often come with caring responsibilities. I  completed my nurse training in 1982 and gained both an RGN and an RSCN qualification, I was young, eager to learn but I wasn’t always juggling with assessment of both theory and practice, and more often than not I only had myself to worry about. Don’t get me wrong, I am not calling for a return to the days of ‘learning at Nelly’s knee’ as I firmly believe in the development of practitioners of the future who can offer an evidence based rationale for the care that is being delivered.  A degree in nursing should be earned to create these practitioners who can challenge, change and move the profession forward in all the right ways. But I do think that sometimes we lose sight of the person at the centre of the process and the larger organisational systems can take over and this is where I worry that those very students who embody those facets of caring, compassion courage, confidence and competence that the profession desperately needs but who may drop one of those ‘balls’ of assessment more than once,  can just fall through the net and nobody hauls them back in.