• bioscience;
  • pharmacology;
  • common foundation programme;
  • mental health nursing;
  • stakeholders’ perspectives;
  • pluralistic evaluation

The biological sciences in mental health nursing: stakeholders’ perspectives

To date, relatively little attention has been paid to optimizing the development of education programmes to support safe and effective health care professionals. In particular, the wider stakeholders, particularly health service users, are rarely consulted on the knowledge base expected of practitioners. We report here on an evaluation, involving students, lecturers, nurses and service users, aimed at reviewing the bioscience component of the preregistration mental health nursing course. Students and lecturers agreed that the current common foundation course in bioscience was biased towards the adult branch students, and failed to meet the needs of mental health nurses. The mental health lecturers’ solution to the ‘bioscience problem’ was to curtail the input. In contrast, service users described serious shortfalls in professionals’ abilities to inform them of common side-effects of medication; these problems were attributable to inadequate educational preparation. The knowledge deficits identified could be rectified by making pharmacology an important part of the mental health education programme. However, for the curriculum to accommodate applied pharmacology, its supporting bioscience, and essential preparation in psychosocial interventions, some restructuring of the biological science programme for mental health nurses will be necessary. Our findings suggest that such restructuring should be informed by service users’ views of their needs.