Gaps have been identified in respiratory teaching within pre-registration nurse education

Nicola Roberts smiling at the camera.

It seems self-evident that in order to successfully treat people with acute and chronic diseases related to breathing, nurses need fundamental clinical skills around conducting respiratory assessment and care. But recent research led by Dr Nicola Roberts, Associate Professor at Edinburgh Napier University, has raised questions around whether UK universities include enough education on respiratory care and clinical skills.

The research uncovered a significant variation across the UK in what is currently taught on respiratory care to pre-registration nursing students.

The team surveyed 75 universities that deliver pre-registration nursing course and found that only 60% dedicate more than 4 hours to teaching respiratory anatomy and physiology, 75.3% to teaching respiratory pathophysiology, and 60.3% to teaching long-term respiratory conditions.

Fewer than 45% (44.4%) dedicate more than 4 hours to teaching respiratory health and prevention of diseases and just one-third (35.2%) dedicate more than four hours to teaching information on pulmonary rehabilitation and other interventions for the management of respiratory conditions. The same is true for teaching respiratory pharmacology (33.8%) and teaching local and national respiratory guidelines (33.3%).

In addition, the research team discovered that whilst respiratory learning could take place during practice placements, there is a large variety in what student nurses will learn in that environment.

Dr Roberts says: “The variation that exists in respiratory education in the UK is concerning. Given that all nurses will manage respiratory conditions at some point during their career – even if they don’t specialise in this field – the variation in the curriculum may lead them to face unnecessary challenges when caring for patients.”

This study highlights the need for fundamental respiratory skills to be embedded worldwide in pre-registration curricula to ensure nurses are adequately trained on qualification to care for patients with respiratory presentations and conditions. This could then be adapted and shared globally with the nursing workforce.

To read the full study, please click here.

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