Fit for purpose: the relevance of Masters preparation for the professional practice of nursing. A 10-year follow-up study of postgraduate nursing courses in the University of Edinburgh
Continuing education is now recognized as essential if nursing is to develop as a profession. United Kingdom Central Council for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting (UKCC) consultations are currently seeking to establish appropriate preparation for a ‘higher level of practice’ in the United Kingdom. The relevance of Masters level education to developing professional roles merits examination. To this end the results of a 10-year follow-up study of graduates from the Masters programme at the University of Edinburgh are reported. The sample was the entire cohorts of nurses who graduated with a Masters degree in the academic sessions from 1986 to 1996. A postal questionnaire was designed consisting of mainly closed questions to facilitate coding and analysis but also including some open questions to allow for more qualitative data to be elicited. The findings indicated clearly that the possession of an MSc degree opened up job opportunities and where promotion was not identified, the process of study at a higher level was still perceived as relevant to the work environment. This applied as much to the context of clinical practice as to that of management, education or research. The perceived enhancement of clinical practice from a generic Masters programme was considered a significant finding. Also emerging from the data was an associated sense of personal satisfaction and achievement that related to the acquisition of academic skills and the ultimate reward of Masters status. The concept of personal growth, however, emerged as a distinct entity from that of satisfaction and achievement, relating specifically to the concept of intellectual sharing, the broadening of perspectives and the development of advanced powers of reasoning.