In this National Nursing Conference blog post, we interview Linda Nelson, Associate Dean for Enterprise and Business Engagement, School of Health and Life Sciences, Teesside University. We explore the future of skills and workforce transformation following the Covid-19 pandemic.
How will the skills’ profile of the workforce have transformed following the pandemic?
“From a student point of view graduates reflect on their extensive clinical skills, particularly in caring for critically ill patients, and decision-making skills, resilience and development of coping strategies gained while working during the pandemic. In many cases staff and students were required to work in different areas, depending where the highest needs were, and this was often outside their comfort zone and current experience. The use of technology to enhance communication has developed significantly and, moving forward, I am sure there is a great deal we can learn from this which applies to certain situations. Online learning is something that was enforced in the pandemic, and yet this was embraced, and although not all students ‘loved it’ they continued to be successful with their studies.”
What has the crisis meant for the training and support of new nurses entering the profession?
“The ongoing training of nurses has been a challenge during the pandemic, but there is a lot to look back and learn from. For new students in year one it was frustrating as they were learning theory with no practice and they were eager to get into a clinical environment. Second and third year students were offered this experience and the ‘opt in’ for final-year students was a huge success. It enabled them to work as part of the team, not in a supernumerary capacity, and they felt valued as they developed resilience, confidence and competence while expanding their skills set. Many were exposed to a variety of clinical experiences which they may not have had. The preceptorship period following registration is a national challenge when students qualify and enter the register. It is well recognised that students require additional support as they develop in their role as a newly-qualified registrant. The experience with ‘opt in’ enabled students to gain this confidence and feel ready to enter the workforce on completion of their course.”
How can unprecedented workforce shortages be addressed in the wake of crisis?
“Within higher education we need to work closely with all partners to expand placement capacity for students. We must support our practice colleagues to enable them to facilitate more students and explore different models of support such as coaching, but the challenge is they are exhausted and tired due to the pressures of the pandemic. Simulated learning has been a key factor during the pandemic and we need to expand on what we have learnt and embed this into the curriculum. Workforce development through apprenticeships (see Teesside University provision here) is another key factor to be considered as they can offer career frameworks for nurses entering the profession from Nursing Associate and Registered Nurse, through to Advanced Clinical Practitioner, as an example. One of the main benefits is that attrition is demonstrated to be lower when the student is sponsored by their employer in comparison to traditional entry into the profession and this is across all fields of nursing. Apprenticeships widen access to those who have experience, motivation and drive but not necessarily the traditional entry requirements for UCAS.”
How can the profession deliver long-term change in delivery through enhanced remote and personalised nursing?
“From an education point of view, we need to embed telehealth and simulated learning in the curriculum and offer placement experience which engages with remote nursing care for patients and their families. During the pandemic students were able to engage with virtual placements and join consultations with clinical teams who were offering support remotely. This is something we need to maintain moving forward and consider how this can be expanded.”
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