The Nursing and Midwifery Council already sets national standards for undergraduate degrees, but Health Education England and NHS England, in collaboration with the Nursing and Midwifery Council and the universities, will work closely together to ensure newly qualified nurses are competent at the point of registration.
This collaboration is vital because the competence of nursing students is assessed not only in the classroom by the universities, but in clinical practice by mentors and assessors who are experienced, practising NHS nurses. NHS England should ensure that Compassion in Practice, the vision and strategy for nursing in England, and its behaviours and values expressed as the ‘6Cs’, are used to assess student nurses during their clinical placements. The importance of robust mentoring and assessing of student nurses will be endorsed by NHS England so that only student nurses who are competent pass their assessments and are consequently recommended for registration. The Nursing and Midwifery Council has put a system of ‘sign off mentors’ in place so that experienced NHS nurses sign off student nurses achievements in clinical practice, and NHS England needs to ensure that mentors are sufficiently supported to make difficult decisions and confidently fail a student if necessary.
Competence at the point of registration needs to be enhanced in the first months of qualification by Health Education England, NHS England and employers giving appropriate support to newly qualified nurses. The established mechanism for this is through preceptorship, but Health Education England and NHS England will need to assure themselves that preceptorship programmes are systematically embedded and properly supported so that newly qualified nurses can grow in competence and confidence and effectively make the transition from being a student to a professional, practising registered nurse.
To provide support to preceptorship, some Health Education England Local Education and Training Boards have developed Preceptorship Standards with their stakeholders to enable service providers to have a better understanding of what good preceptorship entails.