How do we ensure that what we teach in university is applied in nursing practice?

Written by Dr Amelia Swift @nurseswift

This week’s EBN Twitter Chat on Wednesday 3rd May between 8-9 pm (UK time) is being hosted by Dr Ameila Swift (@nurseswift) from the University of Birmingham and Professor Alison Twycross (@alitwy), Editor of EBN. This Blog provides some context for the Chat. To participate in the chat you need a Twitter account; if you do not have one you can create an account at You can contribute to the chat by sending tweets with #ebnjc included within them.

Teaching and learning in nursing can be thought of as happening in two separate locations: the university and the clinical environment.  The separation between the two has long been understood to be problematic for several reasons including

  • difficulty applying in practice the theory has been taught in the university
  • a mismatch between what is taught in university and the reality of practice.

This theory-practice gap causes anxiety for students and a sense of inadequacy for the newly qualified nurse.  These feelings are enhanced by the attitudes and behaviours of some qualified staff that denigrate the nurse education system rather than support it.

The problem is not confined to students and newly qualified nurses though – being a nurse requires a commitment to life-long learning in order to keep up to date and deliver the best care. The NHS responds to this need by providing opportunities for updates, often in the form of lectures and workshops – a relatively cheap way to educate large numbers of staff.  These teaching methods are often relied upon in University teaching too due to the large numbers of students and the breadth of the curriculum.  However, these education strategies have limited impact and their success has tended to be evaluated using pre and post knowledge testing.  This evaluation strategy has the effect of demonstrating the short term success of education but doesn’t examine longer term behavioural change or sustained use of the new strategies.

There are a number of different methods that could be used to create sustainable good practice and when necessary behavioural change, underpinned by a sound evidence base.  Students themselves want more skills teaching in the University setting, educationalists want to create teaching resources that bridge the two environments using mobile technology, and we recognise the need to generate lifelong learning skills for our students and qualified staff that will enhance the ability to both learn and to teach or challenge.

Here are a couple of questions that we will be discussing during the Twitter Chat:

1) What methods have you come across that effectively bridge the theory practice gap and ensure knowledge is used in practice?

2) What are the most sustainable and effective teaching methods used in the clinical practice environment to ensure knowledge is used in practice?

3) How do universities and clinical areas work better together to educate tomorrow’s nurses to ensure knowledge is used in practice?


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