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New approach to finding Florence Nightingales of the future

Posted Wednesday 20 March 2013

Principal lecturer Beattie Dray interviews first year nursing student Sam Berhanu.A pioneering approach to recruiting nursing students with the right values and attitudes to become compassionate and caring nurses is being implemented by Kingston University and St George's, University of London.

"Nursing is a complex job which relies on relationships with patients," Beattie Dray from the Faculty of Health, Social Care and Education, run by Kingston and St George's, explained. "Future recruits need a combination of intellectual and social skills, as well as attributes such as empathy, honesty and integrity - traits not often revealed through more traditional interview techniques. At Kingston and St George's we have developed a new selection process which gives lecturers a better insight into whether candidates have the qualities needed to successfully complete a nursing degree and go on to provide excellent patient care."

The recent report by Robert Francis QC into failures of care at the Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust emphasised the need for universities to identify people with the right attributes to enter the profession. Mr Francis QC recommended that, as a condition of being accepted on to a nursing degree, aspiring nurses should have to demonstrate their values, as well as a desire to care for patients, through an aptitude test.

Those applying to study nursing at Kingston and St George's are invited to an assessment day where they are asked to complete a series of short tasks, known as multiple mini-interviews. Candidates move through six assessment stations and are faced with a different scenario at each one. "Students may be asked to complete a task, comment on a situation or take part in a role-play," Mrs Dray explained. "Lecturers, health professionals and health service users observe and assess candidates' potential for leadership, team-work and decision-making. We also look at whether they consider the impact of their decisions, whether they rely on prejudicial assumptions and whether they are aware of their own strengths and limitations."

The six scenarios, developed by a team of lecturers, service users, students and clinicians from the faculty's partner NHS Trusts, are designed to test communication skills, empathy, decision-making and problem solving, ethical insights and integrity, initiative and team-work. In one situation, interviewees were asked to break the news to someone that their family pet had passed away. "This may seem an unusual way to get a sense of whether someone would make a good nurse, but to deliver this kind of news sensitively, you would have to employ the very skills you could need to call upon as a nurse," Mrs Dray explained.

First-year nursing student Sam Berhanu from East London said the mini-interviews gave him the opportunity to be himself and show different elements of his personality. "I knew beforehand about the interviews but it was still quite a surprise to walk into a room and be told I worked in a bakery and had to tell the father of a bride I'd got his wedding cake order wrong," the 20 year old from Plaistow said. "Once I got in to the swing of it, though, it was like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I felt comfortable - I was able to relax and be myself. It was completely different to the interviews I'd had at other universities." The short, task-focused tests would help eliminate people who might not have the right temperament or qualities to enter the profession, Sam added.

Dr Julia Gale is head of the School of Nursing at Kingston University and St George's, University of London.Dr Julia Gale, Head of the School of Nursing, said multiple mini-interviews were one of a number of tools being used by the Faculty of Health, Social Care and Education to recruit and develop people with the right characteristics to become good nurses. "As far as we know, Kingston and St George's is the only nurse education provider using multiple mini-interviews to select students - an approach we adapted from best practice in dentistry and medical schools," Dr Gale explained. "We use them to try to get the right people in to nursing before they even enrol for a degree. Once we have recruited people we believe have the potential to deliver excellent patient care, we then encourage them to question why things are done in a particular way and explore whether things can be carried out differently, to improve patient experiences."

Dr Gale added that staff at the faculty's partner NHS Trusts had noticed recent work placement students were more questioning, had sharper problem-solving skills and were more keen and motivated than ever - something she suggested could be partly attributed to the faculty's drive to recruit the right people on to nursing courses.

Categories: Staff, Students

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