Why should student nurses be interested in research? #70nursebloggers

For this special guest blog, I’m delighted to introduce Lucy, here’s what she has to say;

Why should Student Nurses be interested in research?

Hello, I’m Lucy a second year adult nursing student. Born and raised in Llandudno and I have always had a passion and interest in nursing. I thoroughly enjoy studying at Bangor University, the enthusiastic and knowledgeable lecturers, supportive peers and of course, the beautiful and incredible scenery which surrounds Bangor (which doesn’t make it as bad when you have an early lecture!).

When I began my theory lectures, I was introduced to the phrase ‘evidence-based practice’. I became very intrigued how, through research by colleagues, we can essentially implement new practice but also de-implement practices which have been used for several years. After being out in clinical practice, I have noticed and realised, that as professionals we know practices need to change, as times and society change. The beauty of research is to use evidence to see what works and to enhance the quality of care we provide to patients.

So why should students should get involved in research? Well, recently I was very fortunate to gain a place on the Student Leadership programme (#150Leaders) which I thoroughly enjoyed. Having discussions with other student nurses, midwives and other allied health professionals, really gave me a broader view as to how research is vital across all professions in guiding their practice too. I also found what sort of research was interesting for different students, some liked research which proved links in condition progression, others about evidence proven in baby and mother bonds. I felt like it was important to discuss and compare ideas as it’s interesting to explore, and as much as we deny it, sometimes we get stuck in our little bubble of ideas around us. It’s always good to break it and to explore new themes, who knows when we could need these when out in practice? In my time as a student, I’m finding that it is so important and wise to gain experience in research whilst we are students.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council actually specifies the need for nurses to be able to understand and appraise research. In the NMC Standards, 2010, ‘Competencies for entry to the register (Adult Nursing)’ it states that: ‘All nurses must appreciate the value of evidence in practice, be able to understand and appraise research, apply relevant theory and research findings to their work and identify areas for further investigation’. So, what have I been doing to gain some experience in research? Well, I have been lucky to sit in on a meeting with Dr Lynne Williams about an infection prevention study. The findings clearly linked some theory into practice for me, and I began realising how important research and continually developing our own practice is. I am hoping to be able to see more research at work within our School this year. I am also planning to attend an international research summer school this July at Bangor; https://www.bangor.ac.uk/healthcaresciences/research/summer-school-2018/index.php.en

The masterclasses on implementation and language awareness really take my interest so hopefully I will gain much more insight into these topics! Lastly, I have been paired up with an incredibly inspirational mentor, within the Student Leadership programme, with whom I hope to discuss research in relation to emergency care nursing as this is hopefully where I would like to be when I register.

To my fellow students, I would say, I understand that this degree is hard work and challenging but so fulfilling at the same time, but take time to read the research around your area of interest. Investing time to read or attend research meetings will develop your practice, thus benefiting your patients and yourself professionally.

Remember: ‘An investment in knowledge pays the best interest’ – Benjamin Franklin.

“I see you”. Making the teacher role visible in online educational courses

There’s no doubt that, over the last few years, we have witnessed the arrival of a wave of online educational courses. These include the SPOC (small private online course) and the MOOC (massive open online course). Characteristically, the SPOC has limited access and takes a fee paying approach Higher Education Academy. The ethos of the MOOC, on the other hand, is about openness and availability for a large number of participants. Both approaches share worthy principles that appeal to the learner in today’s information-overloaded world, in that they are short, subject-specific, use innovative approaches to facilitate learning, and provide credentials and/or certification. The benefits are many. For learners, these include the quality of the materials that can be accessed, and the different types of collaborative experiences that learners can share Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. On the flip side, one of the issues that cause problems for organisers and institutions is non-completion.

The evidence about the pros and cons of online learning is something I’ve been paying attention to recently. As part of a new link nurse programme for infection prevention, we have taken MOOC principles and embedded them within a bespoke online course. Over 10 learning units, our course provides materials to support the new link nurse; enhanced knowledge about infection prevention issues, behaviour change, leadership, understanding the workplace and how to manage change. Weekly “live” discussion forums provide opportunities for the link nurses to network with the course team and with their peers. The overarching aim is to provide a forum for support and reflection. Our course offers credits and certification. For more information about the programme see this article in the Nursing Times We will be formally evaluating the course later this year.

For us, the partnership between us as teachers (the Infection Prevention Team and the HEI) has been pivotal to design and deliver the learning units. Our course team is a broad mix of infection prevention specialists, educators, patient representative and students. Team members have taken responsibility for learning units based on their own areas of experience and expertise, reviewed and suggested materials, and contributed to the discussion forums.

An aspect of interest for me is the role of the “teacher”. In online courses, the teacher often has to perform a multitude of different roles -see Anna Maria Tammaro That we have several “teachers” in our course has prompted me to reflect about the visibility of this role, and consider what we can learn from our experiences so far.  MOOC teaching equates to high levels of visibility (Bayne & Ross, 2014), and, according to Miller (2015), best practice in online teaching is reflected in a strong presence. In our course, we have tried to evoke visibility by providing learners with opportunities to get to know the team. We compiled a “who we are” information folder, with brief biographical detail and photographs, we name the team members who host different learning units, and ensure the provision of regular emails from the course team. Of course, the discussion forums provide the facility of weekly online contact with the team as well. Whether this provides sufficent visibility from the learners’ perspective or not, it will be interesting to find out in the evaluation.

In the next post I will reflect about other aspects of the “teacher” role.

Getting the evidence right

In previous blog posts, I have shared some practical strategies that helped me to prepare my HEA Fellowship application last year. Laying the groundwork through doing some preparatory reading and getting to know the requirements of the application, making time to work through the form and process, and finding a “buddy” were all motivating and helpful factors for me personally. This entry is about how to draw from the right sources the appropriate evidence to support the reflections on one’s own work and teaching and learning practice. Drawing on the right sources to support the application was important to evidence contributions to teaching and learning in relation to the UK Professional Standards Framework UK Professional Standards Framework . For me, this involved collecting the relevant evidence about pedagogy, institution guidance and policy, and subject specific information, all of which were instrumental to supporting statements within my application.

The pedagogical basis of my role was evidenced in the teaching philosophy and case studies. Undergoing the Fellowship application was important to trigger critical thinking about the theory and practice of my work and how this relates to the quality of the experience for students. I identified examples from my  experiences as educator which mapped against the Framework areas of activity, core knowledge and professional values. I subsequently used the appropriate pedagogical evidence to show how I integrate the principles of teaching and learning to lead on practice, within the different framework descriptors. The narrative about choice and use of different teaching strategies in the application form was underpinned with theory, which emphasised the importance of being a reflective educator.

I drew on evidence to support the activities within the case studies and philosophy in the academic institutions’s documents and guidance, for example, mission statement, student charter, quality and standards document, and strategic plan. I also drew on subject specific evidence to support my application. For me, as a nurse educator, this included linking to evidence about leadership, coaching, experiential learning and the NMC

Happy to be contacted for any specific information that I used. I’ve added a few links here to other evidence resources that I found useful

HEA Academy

 Phil Race

Mick Healey

Factors to support your HEA Fellowship application: notes on finding time and a buddy

IMG_1742In this series of blog posts I have been reflecting on my own experiences of the HEA Fellowship application last year, with the aim of providing useful and practical tips. So for anyone out there currently  – or thinking about – going through the process, here are some different strategies that worked for me. Two of the factors that personally helped me get to the end of the application process successfully were:

a) finding time and;

b) finding a buddy!

So, here are some notes on both in the hope that these ideas will help you manage your own application process.

Finding time

“Time..I’ve been passing time watching trains go by”

In our busy worlds, passing time is probably something relegated to wishful thinking! However, making time to read, write and complete applications is something practical that can be achieved – as long as it is planned for and factored into your working lives. Of course, your institution application submission dates provide important deadlines to work towards from the start of the application process. Knowing the dates at the outset, deciding when you will submit, and pencilling deadlines in diaries sets the invisible clock ticking (motivating in itself!).

Each application represents the work of an individual, and as we all might approach tasks differently, it isn’t helpful to be  prescriptive about how long the application process can take. I would say it largely depends on when in the academic year you plan to submit, what work is required to complete on an individual basis, and how the application can fit with other workload/committments.

So, how can you make the most of time to get the application process going smoothly and achieve your goal of submisison?

  • mental notes -using quiet periods (long train journeys, walks on beach) to think about your work, contributions and experiences related to teaching and learning, those which you choose to evidence in your application form
  • organise your diary/calendar so that you can attend institution sessions/workshops or HEA recognition events  linked to supporting the application process
  • get to know the application form early on, especially the requirements for different sections, so that you can use your time wisely to draft and fill in the section requirements without duplication
  • organise some space in your diaries to review pedagogical literature, and other evidence which you can use to support your specific contributions (e.g subject specific evidence about quality of teaching and learning, or published research)
  • think about referees early on, so that you can make contact and organise references in plenty of time before submission


Finding a buddy

“You got a friend in me”

The other tip I would pass on is about finding a “buddy” to share the application journey with. Apparently the word “buddy” is an adaptation of the word “brother”, but in this context the association is of a fellow companion or partner. It reflect  how “buddying up” to work through the application process can be of benefit to not one, but two enthusiastic educators or academic staff members who are motivated about achieving the Fellowship! Similar to the idea of a peer mentor for students, sharing the application process with a colleague can be positive in so many ways;

  • promote organisation and focus through scheduling meetings together focused on discussing specific areas within the application form and how evidence can be recorded
  • clarifying meaning and acting as sounding board
  • critical discussions about how individual experiences and knowledge can be related to areas of activity HEA UKPSF
  • provision of support for each other and suggestions for how to factor in time for application activities

In the next post, I will be discussing the use of evidence within the application, and sharing practical examples of how different forms of evidence fit with the requirements.

In the meantime, good luck with your applications and keep going!

The inside-out approach -being knowledgeable about your HEA Fellowship application

The second point I would like to share is about knowledge.  In the early phase of completing my HEA Fellowship application, I found that preparation was helped by paying attention to background knowledge, so that I fully understood the aims of the Fellowship and was familiar with the benchmarks for success. I think that this was an important piece of work, and facilitated the process of completing the application.

The word “Fellowship” is interesting, and has led me to contemplate on its meaning. It is actually quite difficult to find an all-encompassing definition! In  one sense, we might think of a sense of community or companionship (think “Fellowship of the Ring”), but an academic Fellowship is described in a variety of ways, for example, with reference to status and accreditation. A specific definition of the HEA Fellowship is provided, to show “international recognition of a committment to professionalism in teaching and learning in higher education” (see this link  The HEA Fellowship).
I considered that the term professionalism related to my competence and skills to ensure the quality of teaching and learning activities (which in my case referred to my work and experiences as a nurse educator). Reading the background information on the HEA website, I learnt how applying for a Fellowship could support me in my own development, as well as supporting the institution’s quality assurance processes. As a way of supporting my own development, this was extremely important, as professional development in nursing is a continuous and lifelong process Professional development prep handbook.
I also took time to become knowledgeable about the aims of the The UK Professionals Standards Framework. There are five main aims, linked to professional development, innovation and creativity, professionalism, quality of practices, and quality of teaching and learning within the remit of other roles and responsibilities.
The dimensions of the framework are presented under three key areas -areas of activity, core knowledge, and professional values. Understanding the dimensions was an important first step, as I could later appreciate how evidence for different teaching and learning activities fit with the aims of the framework. For  more information about the framework, this link is useful UKPSF.

Applying for a HEA Fellowship? 1. Create a foundation for success

Last month, I wrote a blog entry to start sharing some of the actions and ideas that helped me during the HEA Fellowship application process this year, and called this my six point plan to success. Today, I am going to try and convey the importance of creating a solid foundation for the application. People often ask how long my application took from start to finish, but I confess, I don’t think a “give it to me in weeks/months” response on my part is the most helpful! In reality, we all work differently, have our own commitments to balance alongside the application, and what I think was more helpful for me was to take my time to do some planning and lay down some groundwork before getting to grips with the application proper. In the early stages, I kept an eye on application submission dates, but focused more on preparing myself by using different strategies, so that I would be in a good position to complete the application in due time.

So, what did I do?

First, I took my time to read. Available from the HEA website, I read the ” UK Professional Standards Framework for teaching and supporting learning in higher education, 2011″ (UKPSF), to understand the accreditation scheme, the aims and dimensions of the framework, and to become familiar with the different descriptors. This was invaluable to help me make my decision as to which descriptor I should be aiming for, and understand the different requirements. I read the University’s scheme handbook which had useful information for using the UKPSF, and which elaborated on each of the dimensions so that expectations became clearer, and triggered the process of making me think about examples of evidence to present in my application. Other useful sources to have by my side as I developed the application included the University’s quality assurance documents, strategic plan, student charter, and mission statement. I brushed up on pedagogical literature, especially to find references to help support  ideas that would form evidence to fit the claim grid and different case studies. To support the specific evidence in my application from my background in nurse education, having sources of evidence which was relevant to this field was essential. This included, for example, experiential learning theory and educational leadership, as well as professional guidance and standards from the Nursing and Midwifery Council. Taking time to read and collect evidence facilitated the later work to actually get to grips with writing the application form, and meant I had the evidence required to hand to support sections within my case studies to map to the different dimensions.

Secondly, I attended an University induction session, and made copious notes! I would recommend capitalising on opportunities to attend sessions facilitated by the HEI to support the application process. I found this invaluable to be able to ask questions on the day, become more familiar about the steps required to complete the application, as well as understanding any administrative requirements. Attending the session also gave me an opportunity to meet other colleagues who were considering their own applications, so that we could also support each other.  My notes were kept in a folder to which I added references and resources that I considered important for the application. Later I would add “to do” lists in the folder!

Thirdly, I drafted a document to map and summarise my role in in teaching and learning, quality assurance, student experience and evaluation, as well as noting my role in developments and innovation in nurse education. It was useful to also note the evidence relevant to my role within the University, as well as with external partners and collaborators.

I hope this conveys just how useful it is to spend some time to do some initial ground work before launching into the full application. In the next blog entry, I will write about the second tip which worked for me, and will share examples of specific knowledge about the descriptors and dimensions which was invaluable to my application.

Applying to become a HEA Fellow? My six point plan to success!

This is the time of year when it’s traditional to look back, reflect and consider the year that’s past, what may have been achieved, and what can be planned to do in the next 12 months. In 2015, I achieved something special – Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.  Although the certificate has my name on it and the award is mine, I recognise that this achievement is also hugely reliant on the contribution of others -students, colleagues, facilitators of my own learning, and the HEI, all have played a huge part  in helping me get to this platform whereby my teaching and learning practice is recognised in a formal way. The time spent preparing the application was worthwhile because it reaffirmed to me the intricacies about quality in teaching and learning. Ensuring quality requires gathering and processing knowledge, practising tools and techniques, acting on feedback from others, and always being aware of myself and my practice, and thinking how I can improve.

If you are thinking of applying for your HEA Fellowship in 2016, here’s an initial six point plan to help with the application process, and drawing from my experience. If this is helpful to others, I am planning to follow this with further blog entries paying attention to each of the six areas in more detail and with examples.

  1. Laying the groundwork  I found it was useful to do some preliminary work before actually starting the application. This involved reading relevant materials provided by the University and on the HEA website, such as guidance, descriptors of different levels, published experiences of others, and the areas of activity in UK Professional Standards Framework (UKPSF). Attending an induction session at the University was also hugely beneficial, to gather core information and to start networking with other colleagues and staff from the University centre for teaching and learning. It was also useful to map a rough list of my work and experiences against the descriptors of teaching and learning roles, to get me thinking about the level of application to apply for, and to start the process of charting evidence against the right level.
  2. Knowledge is key  Following on from the first point, knowing what to do throughout the process was key to getting my application moving on and submitted. I therefore made every effort to know things! This included knowing the University handbook inside out, reading HEA resources, attending sessions organised in the University where staff are there to help and support with the application, and meeting and talking with others who had been awarded the Fellowship themselves. I therefore, over time, became clearer about the process which helped me to reach the milestones I set myself.
  3. Time and space Like any other task we take on, HEA Fellowship applications require time and space to think, not always easy when work and life commitments take centre stage! I therefore used my own personal strategies during the process -making notes when triggered to think of something related to the application, and creating space to think (walking the dogs usually works for me!)
  4. Sharing the journey I cannot over-estimate how much it benefits to share the process with others. Peer support is so worthwhile -helping to clarify different aspects of the application form, discussing different evidence from our experiences which helped to trigger other ideas and thoughts, and providing encouragement and support for each other.
  5. Armed with evidence –I knew that drawing on the appropriate evidence to support my application was very important. This was a process of reviewing literature around pedagogy, University guidance and policy, and subject specific evidence, to support statements to reflect my contributions to teaching and learning quality and innovation. What’s more, I learnt more during the process because I was refreshing my own knowledge as I worked through the application!
  6. Go write! Easier said than done you will say! Drafting sections of case studies and philosophy started slowly for me, but quickly started to build up and develop into meaningful segments to fit different sections. I found it easier to write the sections in Word documents and then copy and paste into the application form when I was satisfied that the narrative was near completion. Working on the claim grid as the first task was probably more time consuming but really helped to clarify where evidence fitted, and what topics were appropriate for the detailed case studies.

I am extremely proud of my HEA Fellow status and hope that the ideas and tips presented here will encourage others to apply. Make 2016 the year in which you can achieve this award! The next entry will be discussing Laying the Groundwork in more detail.