How many practice hours are required to become a registered nurse?
Globally, the number of nurse vacancies is high, and there has been much scrutiny of the preparation of the nursing workforce. The World Health Organization (2020) has called for an acceleration of nurse education to meet future demands. In the UK, nursing is at a critical juncture. Post-pandemic attrition rates are high and, despite ambitious government targets, recruitment is unable to meet demand. A Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) report (NMC, 2022a) demonstrated that almost half the number of graduate nurses joining the register for the first time (48% of 48 436) completed nurse education outside the UK. Of this group, 66% were educated in India or the Philippines.
Nurse education in the UK is approved by the NMC, which currently follows the European Directive 2005/36/EC. This prescribes that nurse pre-registration programmes must total 4600 hours. Of these, 2300 must be practice hours, which are challenging to source due to increasing nursing and multi-professional student numbers and a heavy workload for those supporting students in clinical practice. There is a dearth of evidence to support this figure for optimal learning and little appetite to fund major evaluations of effective practice hours.
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