The past decade has seen an increased focus upon the regulation of the nursing and midwifery professions in terms of assuring public protection both nationally (Keogh, 2013a; Snow, 2012; Tee & Jowett, 2009; Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust 2010 and 2013; Kirkup, 2015) and internationally (ICN, 2013; Pearson et al, 2002). Internationally, this has largely been influenced by increasing opportunities for the migration of qualified nurses (Benton et al, 2014; Cutliffe et al, 2011; Kingma, 2006). However, within the United Kingdom (UK), increasing concern has been influenced by the introduction of independent regulators such as the Care Quality Commission and the publication of numerous reports identifying inadequacies in the quality of care provision across the healthcare sector (Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, 2010 and 2013; Keogh, 2013; Kirkup, 2015). This concern has been accentuated by year-on-year increases in the number of fitness to practise cases being heard by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC, 2016).
The NMC (2010) requires assurance that higher education institutions (HEIs) have transparent and fair processes for the selection, admission, progression and completion of nursing and midwifery pre-registration students, and since 2009 all HEIs have been required to have fitness to practise processes in place to consider any potential misconduct during the course (NMC, 2008). Through this devolved responsibility, HEIs have effectively become the gatekeepers to the nursing and midwifery professions and the implementation of fitness to practise policies and procedures has a direct impact upon the quality of students who go on to qualify and register with the professional body, thereby shaping the quality of the future profession.
A review of the literature has revealed a lack of research relating to the subject of good character in the context of fitness practise specifically in relation to nursing and midwifery education and the profession generally.