From the 1 August 2017, new nursing students will no longer receive NHS bursaries and instead they are required to access loans system just like other students. A potential impact of this change is a decrease in the number of applicants applying for nurse training across the UK. A further impact is the need for HEIs to understand the make-up of the future undergraduate nurse and to deliver on ‘student as consumer’ expectations. With the introduction of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) HEIs are already developing their systems that will help them measure the quality of their teaching, with metrics focusing around employment, destination and retention.
What we know is that the potential future student nurse will have unprecedented exposure to the internet and technology. This includes the use of a mobile phone and other devices that provide 24/7 access to information. They may have witnessed the application of technology within healthcare, such as use of telemedicine and the electronic patient record.
When entering nurse education, one could assume that prospective students will expect a level of technologically driven teaching and learning within their programme of study. Therefore, will the university that markets itself on offering a technologically driven approach to its nurse education curriculum have the competitive edge and be more likely to recruit a higher numbers of student nurses? This is in comparison to those universities who offer the traditional approach to teaching and learning that encompasses the student, predominantly engaging in face-to-face activities that require the student to attend studies on-campus.
Paramount is the need for HEIs to balance their need to remain competitive in the face of increased global and national marketisation of the healthcare sector with the student nurse who, at the end of their programme, can deliver consistent quality nursing care.
With the consultation/introduction of the revised Nursing and Midwifery Council pre- registration standards, the time is right for HEIs to explore with its healthcare practice partners the extent to which technologies should or should not inform the nurse curriculum. There is an emergent positivity towards technology assisted learning and this includes the use of immersive technologies, virtual classroom and high fidelity simulation. Simulation for example mirrors the realities of the clinical healthcare setting and is acknowledged by the NMC as a legitimate alternative to student nurses attending clinical practice.
What is clear is how technological developments will drive future innovative practices. Bearing in mind that our potential future undergraduate nursing cohort is technologically savvy, there is a need to reconcile student expectations with the skills of the nurse academic required to deliver the technologically driven nurse curriculum.Learning from past experiences of delivering change and transformation from within the NHS or HEI setting, it is the way that change is delivered that impacts on its effectiveness and overall sustainability.
Academic leadership is essential especially when used to transform the culture of an organisation in readiness for the technologically driven curriculum. The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership (Kouzes and Posner 2012) adopted by the leader when winning the hearts and minds of those affected could significantly increase its success: model the way; inspire a shared vision; challenge the process; enable the others to act; and encourage the heart. Required is the retention of the human qualities that support both effective change management and the qualities of the caring and compassionate nurse. Ultimately and imperative is the need to align the reward for teaching innovation with student success.