In September 2010 the Nursing and Midwifery Council launched their standards for pre-registration nursing education.

They set out the mandatory requirements that all pre-registration nurse programmes have to meet, and were designed to reflect, the changes in healthcare. The introduction of the standards provide a valuable opportunity to consider the future shape of the nursing workforce.

The role of the nurse is becoming more complex. Care needs are changing as people are living longer, and increasingly care is being provided in the community or at home rather than in hospitals. To meet these challenges, employers need to think about their strategic workforce plan and the type of nurse and carer they wish to train and employ in the future.

Employers should use this opportunity to identify how future services will be delivered and what competencies will be required by the workforce. Comparing this to the shape and skill base of the current workforce will inform any required redesign. Part of this process will be considering how the nursing support workforce fits this vision.

For nurses to be able to do what they have been trained for, employers will need to examine what can be delegated to the support workforce and the skills they in turn will require.

The challenge and scale of the change is large and employers need to start taking action now to ensure success. The first courses to use the new standards will commence in September 2011, with all courses using them by September 2013. It is critical that employers contact their education providers as soon as possible to identify the timetable for change in their area and work with them to develop the curriculum.

The design of course content is a shared responsibility – the standards place considerable emphasis on partnership working - and should be influenced by and reflect how and where services will be delivered and the shape of an organisations own workforce in the future.

As 50 per cent of pre-registration education is delivered in practice settings, the quality of placements is crucial to ensure that newly qualified nurses have the skills appropriate for an organisation’s needs. The changing nature of the provision of healthcare requires the need for innovation when designing placements. Employers will need to look to work with wider healthcare partners in both primary and secondary locations to ensure that student nurses receive training in a variety of settings.

As placements change, mentorship will also need to adjust to reflect the new standards. Employers will need to ensure mentors have the skills and confidence to support students on courses using the new standards. This may mean reviewing mentors, identifying new ones if needed and considering what training is needed to ensure they can carry out their role.

NHS Employers - as part of our work to help the NHS carry out the changes brought about by the new standards, have produced an implementation guide: Preparing for change: implementing the new pre-registration nursing standards. The guide outlines the timetable for change and highlights the roles employers and key partners need to undertake. It provides learning from previous changes to education policy, ideas for ensuring success within organisations and questions to help an organisation assess how ready they are for the change.

Copies of the guidance can be downloaded from www.nhsemployers.org/nursing

Nursing students are the registered workforce of the future. With the introduction of the standards for pre-registration nursing education, employers have a real opportunity to make sure that those nurses have the skills and ability to meet the challenges of the future healthcare service.

Top tips

NHS Employers is working with trusts to help them understand the implications and changes introduced by the new standards. The following top tips provide some action points for organisations to consider:

  • Find out when your education provider will be running courses using the new standards. This will help inform a timetable for action.
  • Put in place a project management team to oversee the process. This will need to include reviewing the timings, risks and costs.
  • Consider the impact on your whole workforce; your staff are critical in making this change a success. Your current nursing workforce will continue to care for patients and will train and mentor new students. You will need to ensure your project management team has a strong communications and engagement plan.
  • Review what your future service needs are likely to be. You will be able to map what skills and training you require from your nursing workforce that will enable them to be flexible enough to meet these challenges.
  • Devise a common understanding of what can be delegated to support workers and identify what development is required for individuals to meet your overall plan.
  • Develop innovative, quality placements. Review how your placements are managed to try to build a cultural attachment, with the aim of having student nurses return to you when registered.