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30th Anniversary Invited Editorial reflecting on Smith J.P. (1978) Higher education and nursing. Journal of Advanced Nursing 3(3), 219–220

  1. Top of page
  2. 30th Anniversary Invited Editorial reflecting on Smith J.P. (1978) Higher education and nursing. Journal of Advanced Nursing 3(3), 219–220
  3. References

Although, as James P. Smith pointed out, some of the so-called ‘developing countries’ did stake an early claim for higher education for nurses, this development occurred most rapidly in the developed countries of the Western world. As a result, nursing has changed from a profession recognized essentially as an appendage to the medical profession to a full-fledged profession in its own right. That journey is now being embarked upon by nurses in Malaysia, one of the world's most rapidly developing countries.

The nursing profession in Malaysia is facing many new challenges as a result of rapid socio-economic change as well as changes that are taking place the country's healthcare system, now in the throes of radical reform. The nursing profession needs to be proactive to meet these new and exciting challenges and nurses must make the necessary changes in their practice to ensure the profession's contributions to healthcare are both appropriate and proactive.

Today's nurses are expected to provide nursing care across the traditional boundaries between nursing and medicine, and between hospital and community care. The future of nursing in Malaysia rests in the hands of nurses to make the transition from doctor-dependent healthcare to client-centred practice. Nurses of the future are expected to know more, and to do more, and to it better than ever before. They need to be equipped with a broad spectrum of knowledge, skills and attitudes that will assist them in fulfilling their roles as effective healthcare providers. As Freeman et al. (2002) advocate, indeed we do need a ‘new curriculum for a new century’.

We need to prepare nurses and nurse leaders who are able to meet these new challenges effectively, at the same time maintaining and sustaining the essential nursing contribution to high quality healthcare. In most parts of the world, nursing education has progressed to higher education and it was inevitable that nursing education in Malaysia would head in the same direction in order to ensure that nurse graduates are prepared to work in the fast-changing healthcare system where expectations in terms of quality and productivity are ever higher. Malaysia needs nurses with critical thinking ability (Le Storti et al. 1999) and the motivation for life-long learning, and with skills in technology, communication, management, collaboration and leadership.

Nurses in Malaysia were educated to certificate level in hospital-based programmes until 1990 when the qualification was upgraded to diploma level. At the same time, one of the country's leading public universities introduced an undergraduate programme for nurses. This was a conversion programme to upgrade the diploma to a degree. At present, five public and two private universities are offering undergraduate programmes for nurses, either conversion and/or generic programmes.

Our progress from hospital-based training to higher education has been rather slow and late in Malaysia compared with other countries – but it is better late than never! Higher education for nurses is not a luxury nowadays, but a necessity. Nurses need to be educated at a higher level in order to equip themselves with the knowledge and skills that will empower them to practice innovatively, creatively and autonomously. James P. Smith, in his 1978 Editorial, expressed confidence that higher education would enhance ‘...both the quality of nursing care and the standing of the nursing profession...’ (p. 220). Those dual aspirations reflect exactly our motivation for higher education now for nurses in Malaysia.

References

  1. Top of page
  2. 30th Anniversary Invited Editorial reflecting on Smith J.P. (1978) Higher education and nursing. Journal of Advanced Nursing 3(3), 219–220
  3. References
  • Freeman L.H., Voignier R.R. & Scott D.L. (2002). New curriculum for a new century: beyond repackaging. Journal of Nursing Education 41(1), 3840.
  • Le Storti A.J., Cullen P.A., Hanzlik E.M., Michiels J.M., Piano L.A., Ryan P.L. & Johnson W. (1999) Creative thinking in nursing education: preparing for tomorrow's challenges. Nursing Outlook, 47(2), 6266.