In the United Kingdom (UK) there are 450,000 care home beds, three times the number of acute hospital beds, yet student nurses receive the majority of their clinical placement learning in acute hospitals. The competencies of nurses in care homes are poorly defined and there is a perception that it is a less skilled branch of nursing and therefore a lower status career. This is despite the care home population having increasingly complex care needs relating to the combination of multi-morbidity, dementia and the need for palliative care. If the future nursing workforce is to be equipped and inspired to meet the nursing needs of an ageing population, care home nursing needs to become a core part of the student nurse preregistration curriculum and recognised as a positive career choice. The aim of this project is to understand the attitudes, experiences and learning needs of student nurses in relation to care home nursing. Two focus groups will be conducted with up to eight students from Years 1 to 4 of the BN with Honours degree programme (total eight focus groups). Findings will inform not only the innovative redesign of the nursing curriculum in 2018 but also the development of care homes as learning environments in which to enhance student learning. Findings will also inform the establishment of Lothian Care Home Centre of Excellence, Innovation, Training and Research (Usher Institute) and the development of the curriculum in relation to other disciplines such as medicine.
Student nurses’ attitudes towards care home nursing were shaped in a number of ways: visiting relatives; volunteering at school to gain work experience; community placements in primary care; the media. Teaching and practice placements, however, played a minor role in shaping students’ attitudes but rather, gave the unspoken message that they were less important than other settings. Most students were initially not in favour of care home nursing as a career choice but in reality had given it little thought. During focus groups/interviews views shifted from seeing care homes as places where you “lose clinical skills” to places where there is “a lot of responsibility”. Student nurses were open to learning about care home nursing as part of their education and keen to have more positive exposure, making a number of practical suggestions for how care home nursing could be incorporated into the curriculum. Higher educational institutions must play a critical role to play in addressing the crisis in recruitment in care homes.