Engagement and Empowerment: Emancipating Health Care Support Workers to become Registered Professionals in Northern Ireland

Prof Jan Draper, Donna Gallagher (OU) and Paul Carlin (SET)

Creating and enhancing career development opportunities for the healthcare support workforce and widening access to higher education are currently key priorities across the United Kingdom. The high academic attainment at GCSE and A Level required by universities challenges these two key priorities.

Francis (2013) said;
“Entrants to the nursing profession should be assessed for their aptitude to deliver and lead proper care, and their ability to commit themselves to the welfare of patients.”

This is enabled in the context of access and entry to The Open University (OU) pre-registration nurse education programme, as the primary driver for selection is the experience of the candidate in actual clinical practice. Since 2004, the OU in Northern Ireland, with the support of the five Trusts, the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, has been delivering a widening access pre-registration nursing programme aimed at healthcare support workers without traditional academic entry requirements, enabling all organisations to grow their own registered nursing workforce.

This presentation will draw on an evaluation carried out by the OU and South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust on the levels of entry, academic achievement and registration with the Nursing and Midwifery Council, post-registration career progression and satisfaction of both students and clinical supervisors to date. Initial findings suggest that such an approach to widening access to nurse education in Northern Ireland has the potential to address issues in relation to social cohesion (Cohesion Policy, 2014-2020), educational standards and attainment (Graduating to Success, 2012), social mobility, career pathway genesis and public sector resourcing (A Partnership for Care, 2012) and support workforce planning across the whole of Northern Ireland.

Date of seminar: 2 March 2016.

Policy Briefing