The OU pre-registration nursing programme has meant we can tap into the talent of our healthcare support workers (HCSWs) and develop them. The real benefit of the programme is that it allows us to offer access to a pre-registration nursing programme on the island, whilst maintaining links with the OU as a recognised institute for nursing education and development.
My job is to facilitate students’ learning, ensure appropriate placements and organize mentors for the students among the existing registered nurses.
Many prospective student nurses could not undertake programmes at traditional, mainland universities because they have young children or other family commitments. Until the OU programme commenced, it was not possible to be based in Shetland and access the full pre-registration programme, but the OU programme is unique in that students can develop their skills and achieve their qualifications without leaving the island. It really suits them to learn while continuing in their workplace as HCSWs and this offers advantages to our Health Board in terms of retaining staff.
The Scottish government funds the places – we advertise the programme among our staff and once we know the number of applicants we can take them through the application process.
The students have to fulfill rigorous admission criteria to ensure they are fully prepared to go to this level of study. If accepted they study for 26 hours per week – sometimes it will be studying theory at home, or sometimes in clinical practice – and do their ‘day job’ the rest of the time. We have a Programme Tutor who is employed by The Open University and helps the students complete the portfolios of evidence they need. The quality of the course materials is excellent – the whole programme is really well organised. I liaise with the staff tutor at the OU and link with my Director of Nursing to help the programme run smoothly. Our mentors and senior charge nurses have been very supportive in making the programme a success.
We started the programme back in 2004 and of those who have qualified since, some are now at Band 6 level and many have gone on to do degree level study. This is a life-changing opportunity that maximizes people’s potential by helping them develop personally and progress professionally. The OU’s pre-registration nursing programme is an excellent and effective way for us to support professional development for our staff, it works out well for everyone.