• continuing education;
  • degree programmes;
  • professional development;
  • role-strain;
  • interview study

Motivational forces affecting participation in post-registration degree courses and effects on home and work life: a qualitative study¶ Over the past decade, pre- and post-registration education for nurses and midwives in the United Kingdom has undergone major change, creating an atmosphere where continuing professional development is a matter of priority for individual health care staff. Against this context of change, and as part of a larger study of continuing education and training in the National Health Service, a cohort of participants in a part-time health studies degree course were interviewed using a semi-structured schedule. Twenty-nine nurses, midwives and allied professional staff described their motives for participation in the course and its effects on their professional and personal lives. Data collected in interviews were analysed using qualitative methods and revealed that participation was encouraged by both professional and personal factors. For many staff participation was prompted by negative feelings about themselves and their professional status. Participation in the course was associated with (largely negative) changes in home and family life and most participants faced additional financial burdens. The findings of the study have implications for policy relating to the funding of continual professional education for nurses and other health care staff. Health care staff are receiving mixed messages about continuing education from policy makers and employers. Dependence on willingness and ability to pay for post-registration degree-level studies is unlikely to be an efficient or equitable means of ensuring lifelong learning for healthcare staff.