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Where have the 'hands-on' skills gone?

I am writing this in July 2004 but I won't submit it to Kai Tiaki Nursing New Zealand until July 2005. I'll explain why later.

I read with interest Teresa O'Connor's editorial in the June 2004 issue, "Nursing education--time for a re-think?" (p2). She's right, there are some "disturbing signs". I would agree that some of the clinical placements the student nurses go on are inadequate. I would go further and say some are a waste of time.

I have welcomed students to the Roxburgh Medical Centre for several years now, usually three a year and have found it hugely satisfying. As a team, we get to know the student well and all ensure s/he is happy and experiencing as much clinical work as possible. Our employer, the Medical Trust, is paid well by Otago Polytechnic for these placements, which is rather ironic when the employees do the nurturing.

I have had students tell me that they know of placements where the student has mainly "observed" for a month. These are final-year students who need as much hands-on practical help as we can give them. Yes, it's time consuming and quite exhausting but it does make you reflect on everything you do. It is also very rewarding. I have learnt things from all the students we have had.

However, I continue to be dismayed at how little practical knowledge they have. Yes they have the academica but what about the basic nursing skills--the hands-on stuff? Where have they gone? With every student I have had, I have said the same thing to the tutor: "You have the balance all wrong. There is too much academia and not enough clinical." No-one listens. Nothing changes.

I have not regretted my decision to turn my back on further academic study. I am too busy putting my energy and time where I believe it really counts--care of the patient.

The reason I haven't submitted this letter until now is because I didn't want to place any pressure or embarrassment on my daughter in her final year of study. I have followed my daughter's training with close interest. The majority of placements she had were excellent. However one of her third-year placements seemed a waste of time. The person responsible for her appeared not to have prepared for the placement. But my daughter approached other team members who were only too happy to spend time with her.

These third-year students have been hearing all year how poorly supported new graduates are. This isn't good enough. Not only does it put the new graduate nurse at risk professionally and emotionally, but it puts patients at risk. So if the powers that be are wondering why new graduates are leaving, go and find out. Start listening to nurses like Martin Woods, who wrote an eloquent letter about the state of nursing education, (Editorial tars all educators with the same brush, Kai Tiaki Nursing New Zealand, July 2004, letters, p3) and others, and show regard instead of ridicule.

My daughter has been in Melbourne this year, with many other New Zealand nurses, completing the new graduate programme there.

Morg Eckhoff, RN

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Title Annotation:letter to explain how little practical knowledge has the student nurses
Author:Eckhoff, Marg
Publication:Kai Tiaki: Nursing New Zealand
Article Type:Letter to the Editor
Geographic Code:8NEWZ
Date:Aug 1, 2005
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