Nursing education: what can perspectives from the social sciences contribute?

Lead Research Organisation: Edinburgh Napier University
Department Name: Nursing Midwifery and Social Care

Abstract

The purpose of this seminar series is to develop approaches to the teaching of care to nurses that are informed in a meaningful way by the social sciences. Recent high profile scandals (e.g. at the Mid Staffordshire Foundation NHS Trust) have raised notable concerns about levels of basic nursing care. Evidence indicates that caring is an attribute the public see as central to the role of a nurse. Thus, whether or not there has been a decline in caring within the nursing profession, supporting nurses to provide a high level of care is important.

How might the social sciences contribute to nursing education in a meaningful manner? Caring has various components which involve individuals feeling empathy and having practical skills. The social sciences can potentially inform both. To feel empathy requires individuals to have insight into the experiences of others, something to which the social sciences have made considerable contribution in the past (though the extent to which this has been used within nursing curricula has been limited). Providing practical care can also be informed by the social sciences. The needs of individuals will differ depending on their circumstances. For example, enabling self-care for someone living in the context of deprivation will involve some very different considerations to another scenario; say with a patient who is economically more secure even if the medical condition involved is the same. Understanding social context thus has considerable potential. The social sciences can also potentially facilitate reflective practice, thus helping nurses to more confidently challenge ineffective or sub-optimal practices.

Using insights from the social sciences (and specifically geography and ethnography as proposed here) is not going to be a simplistic fix to problems experienced in the health service, but has the potential to contribute to improving practice. We explicitly address gaps between theoretical ideas and practice by bringing together different groups of people: academics (from nursing as well as social science areas of work), policy makers who contribute to developing nursing curricula and nursing students (both pre- and post-registration). We adopt the framework of 'joint interpretive forums' for our seminars. This framework will enable theoretical ideas to be explained, questioned by people with very different perspectives and developed in a way that is relevant to practice.

The views of nursing students are crucial if the contribution the series aims to make to nursing care is to be meaningful to the teachers, researchers and practitioners of the future. The social sciences have demonstrated the importance of user participation and our inclusion of student nurses will not only capture their perspectives but also provide a model for the development of nursing curricula. A core group of student nurses will contribute to seminars and also be supported to write papers as a means of widely communicating their views.

The series sets out with two seminars that consider the theoretical contributions geography and ethnography can make to nurse education. The ideas emerging from these early encounters are then developed in a third seminar through the analysis of a topical case study (Mid-Staffordshire). Hence we begin to unpack implications of practice in the face of realities to theory. The fourth and fifth seminars are dedicated to the discussion of the developing theoretical ideas from earlier seminars by those directly involved in nursing education - teachers and students. The final seminar then takes the ideas developed up to this point and engages directly with those whose responsibilities involve the development of curricula for nurses. We also use the opportunity to consider how the networks created by the series can be made sustainable so as to enable a more explicit on-going discussion regarding nursing education and the potential contributions of the social sciences.

Planned Impact

Beneficiaries of the series will include the following groups:
- Patients
- Nurses
- And academics

Any improvement in nursing care will have benefits to patients. Critical and reflexive thinking are already well developed concepts within nursing but a more explicit utilisation of theories developed with the social sciences hold the potential to develop them still further and facilitate understanding (and thus responses) to caring for people whose lives are very different to those from which the nursing students understand. In so doing the series will also enable discussion of the theory practice-gap so as to explicitly recognise and challenge assumptions of both academics and practitioners and potentially empower nurses in their roles of ensuring the wellbeing of patients and coping with the realities of working in situations of limited resources.

Publications

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Related Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Award Value
ES/L000741/1 01/04/2014 31/12/2014 £20,836
ES/L000741/2 Transfer ES/L000741/1 01/01/2015 31/03/2016 £12,315
 
Description The Principle Investigator was asked to contribute to a 'Thought leadership group' by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), the professional regulators for nursing in the United Kingdom. The NMC, apart from regulating the profession, also have responsibilities to setting requirements for undergraduate nurse education that will enable entry to the professional register. The 'Thought Leadership Group" started the process of developing new standards of proficiency for undergraduate nurse education in the United Kingdom. The request resulted from the involvement of the NMC in the seminar series. It has enabled ideas that emerged through the seminar series to be fed into the process of developing competencies. The process is ongoing and will shortly be entering a wider consultation later in 2017. The seminar series team will be continuing to engage with that process and draw on insights from the series to contribute to the ongoing development of these standards, and to encourage the use of the social sciences in undergraduate nurse education. Discussions emanating from the seminars have also led to the NMC engaging with academics as part of the ADR UK initiative (and specifically the Scottish Centre for Administrative Data Research) with a view to thinking about how their data might be better used to better enable support for groups at risk of being referred to fitness to practice, as well as to understand the dynamics of the nursing workforce more generally.
Sector Education
Impact Types Societal

 
Description Meeting with and at request of Director of Council of Deans (organisation that represents schools of nursing, midwifery and other allied health care professions)
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
 
Description Request to contribute to consultation on development of new standards for undergraduate nurse education
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a national consultation
 
Description Paper presented to Council of Deans 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Discussion was sparked as to what might be achieved in nursing education, and also the education of allied health care professionals, through a more meaningful engagement with the social sciences.

Dame Jessica Corner, chair of the Council of Deans, stated that she was very interested in the potential to use social science approaches as a means to better enabling students to draw on theory in their day-to-day practice. She also praised the seminar series initiative for bringing together different universities to work together on a particular issue.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Paper to International Medical Geographies Symposium 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The paper, "Transfusing our lifeblood: reframing research impact through interdisciplinary collaboration between health geography and nurse education", communicated ideas emerging from the seminar series, and encouraged dialogue between social scientists and nurse educators.

A request for a paper to be submitted to a special education of "Social Science and Medicine".
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.sfu.ca/imgs2015/IMGS%202015%20-%20Oral%20Abstracts.pdf
 
Description Seminar 4 - Social Science in Nurse Education: Opportunities and challenges for curriculum design and delivery 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The seminar encouraged discussion as to the implications and challenges relating to ideas developed through the series to date.

The seminar has led to ongoing discussions with colleagues from different universities as to how to more effectively situate the social sciences in nurse education.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://socialscienceandnursing.com/seminar4/
 
Description Seminar 5 - Student Views, Student Voices 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Participants in your research and patient groups
Results and Impact The meeting improved understanding of students' perspectives on ideas emerging from the seminar series to date. It also enabled an advisory group to emerge who will further contribute to the series over the remainder of its course.

The seminar has enable the development of a group of nursing students whose views will further contribute to the ongoing series.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://socialscienceandnursing.com/seminar5/