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Keywords:

  • cadets;
  • nursing;
  • student nurses;
  • widening access

Background.  In response to the policy initiatives in England to secure recruitment and retention in the nursing and midwifery professions, strategies to improve and extend access to preregistration education and training in England have been developed. The relatively recent development of modern cadet schemes is an example of such a strategy. Despite the increasing interest in and proliferation of cadet schemes, there is as yet little evidence for their effectiveness. Reporting on an evaluation of a scheme in England, this paper makes some contribution to this evidence.

Aims and objectives.  The project explored former nurse cadets' experiences of the cadet scheme 9 months after their transition to nurse education. The aims of the project were to evaluate the extent to which former cadets and university staff considered the scheme to prepare students effectively for access to university nurse education.

Methods.  The first cohort of former cadets entered nurse education in September 2000. After 9 months they were invited to contribute to an evaluation of the cadet scheme and their present experience. The evaluation consisted of a structured questionnaire sent to all the former cadets, a focus group interview with the former cadets, informal discussions with university staff and brief documentary analysis.

Conclusion.  Tensions were apparent between the worlds of education and clinical practice: the cadets felt better prepared clinically than academically and found an element of repetition in the nursing programme. They valued their preparation, which they felt put them at an advantage over other nursing students. However, some of them experienced difficulties in the transition to higher education and further review is therefore required to establish the success of cadet schemes.