• bioscience;
  • education;
  • nursing perceptions;
  • student nurses;
  • staff nurses;
  • preregistration;
  • postregistration

Getting it right? An exploration of issues relating to the biological sciences in nurse education and nursing practice

Concerns have been expressed that bioscience education is not meeting the needs of nursing students in the UK. This paper explores the situation further by comparing student perceptions with those of experienced practitioners (Part One of the study) and also evaluates the confidence of staff nurses in explaining the rationale for care applied to a common but specific disorder (influenza; Part Two). Questionnaires were used. Responses were elicited from DipHE Nursing (Project 2000) adult/child branch students (n=153) from two universities and from adult/child care staff from their local clinical placements (n=171 in Part One of study; n=266 in Part Two). The questions asked followed two themes: (1) confidence in understanding biological science and (2) issues of teaching and learning. Most questions utilized a rating scale from 1 to 10; this scale provides no central value and a vertical line was drawn to encourage respondents to identify which half of the scale their responses came under (basically, a negative or positive viewpoint). The significance of the data distribution either side of the midline was analysed statistically (simple sign test), as were any differences in distribution between the groups (chi-square test). Median values were also determined. The data do not provide support for views that the biosciences are being significantly diminished by modern curricula, but also show no evidence for a great improvement in the bioscience knowledge base in recent years. What was surprising was the lack of confidence expressed by staff nurses: one illuminating finding was the lack of confidence in articulating their knowledge to patients and, even less so, to other health professionals. The paper reiterates a need for a national teaching and learning strategy for pre- and postregistration education in the biosciences. In particular, a means to raise the level of understanding of staff nurses must be identified urgently so that the mentoring of students in these subjects is improved.