Bioscience underpins nursing practice and yet there is a recognised need to improve delivery in this field. One approach adopted to tackle this ‘bioscience problem’ is the formation of the BiNE network, a HEA special reference group, which brings together nurse educators from across the UK to share, discuss and develop bioscience education, scholarship and research. The group have recently published a Quality Assurance Framework proposing minimum bioscience learning outcomes for inclusion in the pre-registration nursing curriculum. We hope that this tool will be widely adopted by AEIs.
Over the past 16 years I have had the privilege of teaching both pre- and post- registration student nurses various aspects of biosciences, in particular physiology and pharmacology. During that time I have consistently noted that many student nurses struggle with learning underpinning bioscience and they frequently express the need for greater support, more dedicated time in the curriculum and a wider variety of teaching methods to help them grasp and apply what they perceive to be difficult concepts and principles. Whilst attending learning and teaching events I soon realised that my experiences are not unique and that many other nurse educators (and students!) are struggling with the same issues. In fact there is a growing body of literature, spanning over four decades, which highlight that student nurses find bioscience learning to be very challenging and they can lack confidence in their knowledge of bioscience on qualification. This has raised concerns regarding competence and highlights that this ‘bioscience problem’ is not a recent predicament and is an issue that clearly needs to be addressed by both HEIs and NHS Trusts.
In 2012, with the support of HEA (in particular Vanessa Taylor, former HEA Discipline Lead for Nursing and Midwifery) and my colleague Helen Clarke, I founded the Biosciences in Nurse Education (BiNE) network as a HEA special reference group. This network aims to bring together academics with experience in pre- and post- registration nurse education from across the UK to share, discuss and develop bioscience education, scholarship and research.
The network now currently comprises over 30 nursing and bioscience academics whose work includes teaching biosciences to nursing students in 17 UK universities. We meet twice a year to share good practice and promote collaborative projects. We never fail to be inspired by colleagues who present aspects of their teaching practice at these meetings and we often return to our own institutions determined to implement such innovations ourselves. Examples include learning and teaching methods as diverse as laboratory based teaching, felt making, e-learning, student led drop-in centres and peer assisted learning to name but a few… We are in the process of developing a toolkit of short case studies of approaches adopted by BiNE members to teaching biosciences to nursing students.
With an evidence based approach to teaching high on our agenda, the group not only share their teaching practice but also findings from their own evaluation / pedagogic research projects, thus promoting the adoption of new evidence based teaching practices on a wider scale. All aimed of course to enhancing students’ grasp and understanding of the biosciences in nursing.
As a collective group, the network has a unique opportunity to join forces to undertake collaborative research in this field. This in turn has started to produce research outputs including conference papers and publications. One such output, a survey exploring the experiences, views, concerns and recommendations of BiNE members, highlighted startling variability in bioscience provision in pre-registration nursing programmes across the UK (Taylor et al., 2015). We have presented our findings to NMC and as a result of such discussions the group have recently developed and published a Quality Assurance Framework proposing minimum bioscience learning outcomes for inclusion in the pre-registration nursing curriculum. We hope that this tool will be adopted by universities across UK.
It is exciting to see how the network is developing and through its activities we sincerely hope to improve the standards of bioscience learning and teaching in nursing programmes nationwide. The focus of this network has always been aimed at improving student nurses’ learning of biosciences and thus their ability to confidently apply bioscience in clinical decision making. As a final note though, it is of interest to see how the network has also provided a vehicle of support and nurture which has resulted in enhancing the professional development of the members also!
Further information about the BiNE Group can be found at: http://www.bcu.ac.uk/bine