Following concerns expressed by a number of members of the Association of Occupational Health Nurse Practitioners (AOHNP) regarding the present education and training requirements by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) for OH nurses, a meeting was arranged between the AOHNP and Alison Wall, NMC professional adviser for Specialist Community Public Health Nursing (SCPHN), Children and Young People.
The meeting took place at the NMC headquarters on 20 July 2009, and was attended by AOHNP members Christina Butterworth, Anne Harriss, and myself.
The objectives of the meeting were:
- To explain the uniqueness of OH nursing
- To respond to the NMC request to help shape the future of nursing education
- To express concerns from OH nurses and allied professionals about the standards of OH practice following recent OH education.
Four main points were discussed:
1. Standards of proficiency for SCPHNs Wall said that this publication is being reviewed at present, and it was agreed that I will be invited to join the review panel in early 2010.
Meanwhile, the NMC is tendering for a literature review on what the main pressures and drivers in public health have been since 2004.
2. Review of present OH education – OH nurse educator Liz Griffiths has been asked to review the following items, on behalf of the NMC:
- number of courses available (NMC-approved and not approved)
- number of students registered for 2009 – full-time and part-time
- pass rate
- number of practice teachers
- why some universities are no longer offering an OH course (including the availability of practice teachers).
3. A greater understanding of OH nursing – Wall’s awareness of OH nursing was raised, particularly OH practitioners’ need for business skills and health risk management skills, employment law and health and safety knowledge, as well as a foundation knowledge of disease management, all of which is very different to the needs of other SCPHN disciplines.
Wall appeared to be convinced by the approach to the biopsychosocial model of health put forward by the AOHNP representatives, regarding priorities for the working-age population of endemic disease, obesity; noise-induced hearing loss and other international health issues. Wall suggested that an article in the quarterly NMC News magazine might help to enlighten others. However, this has not happened.
4. Validation of OH courses – There is a wide range of course content, some with a greater degree of elements specific to the OH pathway, and some with a greater degree of public health elements that are not directly OH-related.
The course run at the South Bank seems more in line with AOHNP thinking in that it offers three core modules on research, leadership and public health, with all of the other modules being OH-pathway specific.
The NMC presently has a validation panel, but there is no OH nurse (practicing nurse consultant) representation on this. Wall was not able to commit to this request, but did say that she would investigate the possibility.
All these points require further discussion and involvement from OH. The more the AOHNP, other OH organisations and individual OH nurses challenge the NMC, the better.
(Since this meeting, an article on OH nursing was submitted to the editor of NMC News, and publication was refused.)
By Greta Thornbory, professional development director, AOHNP