The NHS Nursing Leadership Project is designed to liberate talent and is proving to be a shining example of e-learning in action
We often think of a nurse taking someone's blood pressure or dressing a wound, but rarely picture them dealing with a difficult employee or assessing an individual's emotional intelligence. Plenty of nurses, however, have to manage and deal with staff and so need to have the same leadership skills associated with business.
Similarly, as one of the largest employers in Europe, the NHS has an ongoing need to support and influence the workforce so it can adapt to change, improve service and deal with challenges of new ways of working.
To address these needs, it introduced the National Nursing Leadership Project, which is now the largest leadership programme in the world, involving some 35,000 nurses. At the hub of the project is a website, launched in April 2001 (www.nursingleadership.co.uk), through which a mass of information and resources, along with a growing collection of e-learning courses may be accessed. Speaking about the programme at the site's launch, the Secretary of State for Health Alan Milburn, said that "liberating the talents of nurses helps to expand the overall capacity of the NHS, increases the productivity of the NHS and improves the performance of the NHS".
From the outset, the Government wanted e-learning to play a vital part in the programme. But while the directive for the training came from the top, the demand from nurses and other clinical staff for leadership development was equally high, as was the willingness to try the new training methods, says David Dawes, e-learning development manager at the NHS.
Before embarking on the project, Dawes and his team carried out a major research project designed to assess readiness of clinical staff and the organisation for e-learning.
"We also wanted to ascertain how and when people preferred to access it and to identify any barriers that might exist," he says. "Following this, we looked at the effectiveness of the content and compared different approaches to e-learning."
The research found that 70 per cent of registered nurses have internet access, compared with 30 per cent of adults in the general population, and that although 63 per cent of NHS clinicians had access to a computer at work, 59 per ce