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Previous care experience doesn’t increase nursing students’ compassion, finds a new study

A new study has found that nursing students’ compassion is not increased by previous paid care experience, which discredits the idea that they should have care experience before embarking on training.

In the new study, published in the International Journal of Nursing Studiesexperts from the University of Nottingham found that there were no significant differences between participants with and without paid prior care experience in relation to caring and compassionate values and behaviours.

The research was led by Professor Joanne Lymn in the School of Health Sciences at the University, commissioned by the Department of Health and was funded by the Department of Health and Social Care; National Institute for Health and Care Research.

Professor Lymn said: “‘This longitudinal study showed that paid prior care experience did not offer any long-term benefits in relation to developing nursing students’ caring and compassionate behaviours. Positive and negative impacts of prior care experience were identified but the positive impacts did not extend to qualification. The data do not support mandating a period of paid care experience prior to commencing nursing training."

Compassion is critical to the provision of high-quality healthcare and is highlighted internationally as an issue of concern. Paid care experience prior to nurse training has been suggested as a potential means of improving compassion, which has been characterised by the values and behaviours of care, compassion, competence, communication, courage and commitment.

However, there is a lack of evidence to support the effectiveness of prior care experience as a means of improving compassion in nursing.

A group of experts, led by colleagues from the School of Health Sciences at the University of Nottingham, wanted to further explore the issue with this new study. Participants were pre-registration nursing students and people who had previously taken part in a Health Education England paid prior care experience pilot. The research used a mixed methods design - 220 people completed questionnaires, 10 people had phone interviews and 8 were involved in focus groups.

The questionnaires measured emotional intelligence, compassion satisfaction and fatigue, resilience, psychological empowerment and career commitment.

The findings of the study suggest that prior care experience has both positive and negative effects on students’ compassionate values and behaviours, however positive effects don’t extend to qualification. No statistically significant differences were found in any of the quantitative outcome measures between participants with and without paid prior care experience.

A statistically significant increase in compassion fatigue was identified in both groups of participants post-qualification. Paid prior care experience did not prevent participants from experiencing reality shock on becoming a student or on qualification.

"This is good news in the current climate where we need to encourage more students into the nursing profession,” commented Professor Lymn.

The full study can be found here.

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Upcoming Events

BAUN Summer Educational Event – Essential Urology Skills

Crowne Plaza, Newcastle Stephenson Quarter
6th June 2024

The AfPP Roadshow - Exeter

University of Exeter
22nd June 2024

EBME Expo

Coventry Building Society Arena
26th - 27th June 2024

The AfPP Roadshow - Cardiff

TBA, Cardiff
13th July 2024

AfPP Annual Conference 2024

University of Warwick
2nd - 3rd August 2024

The AfPP Roadshow - London

Cavendish Conference Centre, London
14th September 2024

Access the latest issue of Clinical Services Journal on your mobile device together with an archive of back issues.

Download the FREE Clinical Services Journal app from your device's App store

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