Representatives meet with NMC to discuss disquiet over OH nurse training

Occupational health professionals were set to meet officials from the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) last month to open potentially wide-ranging discussions on the future shape, direction and delivery of OH nurse education.

Christina Butterworth, board member of the Faculty of Occupational Health Nursing’s (FOHN) development group, and Mandy Murphy, deputy head of the National School of Occupational Health (NSOH), were set to sit down with the NMC in April to, as Butterworth told Occupational Health & Wellbeing, “develop a plan as to how to move things forward”.

The meeting comes against the backdrop of the NMC announcing a review of training standards last year and growing disquiet within the profession as to whether or not the current Specialist Community Public Health Nursing-based (SCPHN) NMC validation structure is delivering the best training for future generations of OH practitioners.

Questions about the continued relevance and appropriateness of sitting OH training within SCPHN-based training were raised by FOHN in a position paper in 2015 and again in its member survey last year.

Public Health England’s recent guidance document Educating Occupational Health Nurses, and a similar report by the NSOH in March, have also cast a spotlight on the future shape, and requirements, of OH nurse training.

For example, Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen has recently launch a non-NMC validated occupational health nursing BSc.

“A lot of students are coming out of business, working full time and often self-funding. They want the [previous] course to be relevant, and learning about topics such as poverty and worklessness, while both worthwhile, are just not subjects OH nurses deal with. They had to wait until the third module before they got into the occupational health,” said Lynda Bruce, lecturer in OH at the university.

Of the meeting with the NMC, Butterworth told OH&W: “What we hope to get out of it is a recognition that OH nursing is a specialty that is very different to other nursing specialties; that people often work as autonomous practitioners and, therefore, do not have that oversight that other nursing professionals have. So, OH nurses have to be very competent at what they do, and we need to have the education to match that.”

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