Innovative teaching techniques to increase intake of student nurses

Posted on: 21 December 2022

The School of Nursing and Midwifery is rising to the challenge of increasing its student intake under limited capacity with innovative teaching techniques, to replace some hospital clinical internship hours.

Innovative teaching techniques to increase intake of student nurses

In September of this year, a report from the Department of Health found that Ireland needed to double its intake of student nurses in the higher education system over the next 20 years - if it is to meet its commitment to attain self-sufficiency in health staffing and reduce its reliance on a foreign educated nursing workforce - as part of a World Health Organization code of practice. In Ireland, in 2021, around 41% of full-time nurses were educated abroad. Under the code of practice, Ireland has agreed to responsible recruitment and to end active recruitment of health personnel from developing countries, particularly those facing critical shortages. 

The pressure is clearly on now for higher education institutions, but with capacity issues both in colleges and in hospitals limiting the number of ‘clinical internship places’ on offer, the challenge is great.  

The internship process in hospitals by medical, nursing and midwifery degree students constitutes a fundamental stage in their professional development. Clinical internships (or ‘clinical placements’ as they are known as in Ireland) are a vital part of formal training where participation in work activity under the supervision of a teacher takes place in a hospital setting. This process involves not only the acquisition of knowledge, skills and competences that enable the student to adapt to the working environment or to the specialisation, but also to develop a professional identity. Building clinical placements in future hospitals will require investigating how innovation can enhance or replace clinical placements hours. 

The School of Nursing and Midwifery is rising to the challenge of increasing its student intake under capacity limitations, by employing innovative teaching techniques which hope to replace some of hospital clinical internship hours.  

The proposed innovative techniques will include: 

Augmented reality: A type of virtual reality in which synthetic stimuli are superimposed on real-world objects, usually to make information that is otherwise imperceptible to human senses perceptible 

Simulation: The modeling of real-life processes with inputs and outputs exclusively confined to a computer, usually associated with a monitor and a keyboard or other simple assistive device. Simulation has been proven as a beneficial teaching method for undergraduate nursing education. 

Problem based learning: a student-centered pedagogy in which students learn about a subject through the experience of solving an open-ended problem found in trigger material. 

Virtual reality: The use of computer technology to create an interactive three [1] dimensional world in which the objects have a sense of spatial presence; virtual environment and virtual world are synonyms for virtual reality. 

The project, 'HEAL+ (internsHips in futurE hospitALs'  is led by Dr Fintan Sheerin (Head of School of Nursing and Midwifery); Cathy Roets (Clinical Nurse Tutor) and Freda Neill (Head of Clinical Skills) and funded by the European Union, as an Erasmus + Project. 

Dr Sheerin said: 

‘Considering the need for increasing graduate numbers across healthcare professions, and the challenges of achieving this in the context of limited placement opportunities, the HEAL project is of importance, as it is looking at innovative ways of addressing clinical internship.’ 

This project will only replace some clinical placement hours and not all. Such models of teaching are employed elsewhere globally, but Trinity College is the forerunner in this initiative in Ireland. Up to 50% of the clinical placement hours have been replaced with simulation and other innovative teaching techniques in the US (State dependent). The UK has also implemented the allowance of replacement of 300 clinical placement hours using innovative teaching techniques. The Erasmus HEAL + project is underway since March of this year and will run until July 2024. 

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