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The future of nurse education? Studying at the Open University in Scotland

08 April 2021
Volume 30 · Issue 7


This article describes nurse education with the Open University in Scotland (OUiS). Although there are problems with nurse recruitment and retention across the UK, in Scotland the landscape is somewhat different, with greater support for students required in remote and rural areas. Despite these challenges, the OUiS continues to recruit to the commissioned numbers of places. OUiS nursing students are primarily health care support workers who are a key group within the health and social care workforce but historically have faced many challenges in developing clear career pathways into nursing. At the heart of the OU is the fundamental recognition of distance online pedagogy, complemented by work-based learning support by employers. Partnership working between the OU, employers and education commissioners is crucial to its success.

The challenges for nursing in Scotland in the 21st century are similar to those of many other developed and industrialised countries. Dealing most recently with the COVID-19 pandemic, nurses are also looking after people with degenerative or long-term conditions, mental health problems, and conditions associated with an ageing population. There is also the need to move the emphasis from acute to community care (Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), 2018a; Glasper, 2020). In addition, although Scotland is a relatively small country, it has a variety of population profiles, ranging from densely populated urban conurbations to remote, sparsely populated and relatively inaccessible areas, which demand different approaches to healthcare provision. Devolution of health and social care to the Scottish Parliament has seen the continued decentralisation of power as an increasingly important part of policy, and a central foundation in redesigning initiatives to reduce health inequalities and address key areas for health improvement. This approach has also been reflected in the evolution of the recruitment, education and retention of nurses in Scotland (Scottish Government, 2017; NHS Education for Scotland (NES), 2020).

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