For many registered nurses (RNs) reading this, the pathway they took to registration in Aotearoa New Zealand was to complete a three-year bachelor’s degree and sit and pass the Nursing Council state examination.
There is now an option for those who already have a degree to complete a shortened programme of study, while still meeting all the Nursing Council requirements and competencies. This is a graduate entry to nursing (GEN) programme.
GEN education started in New Zealand in 2014 and is now provided by eight schools of nursing. In alphabetical order, these are: Auckland University of Technology (AUT), Canterbury University, Massey University, University of Auckland, University of Otago, University of Waikato, Victoria University of Wellington and Wintec Te Pūkenga.
GEN programmes have been offered internationally since the 1970s and are recognised as an attractive option for those with a completed degree. Internationally, we know that those who complete a GEN nursing programme were looking for a satisfying career, work that had meaning and purpose and sometimes for a complete change in direction.1
Proven ability to learn
As these people have already completed a degree, they have a proven ability to learn and most can manage the intensity of the two-year full-time (some schools of nursing have a part-time option) programme.
When they start, GEN students are much like other pre-registration nursing students, particularly in how nervous they can feel when faced with their first clinical experiences. We know a supportive clinical environment and good RN role models can really make a big difference to all students, and notably GEN students.
We know a supportive clinical environment and good RN role models can really make a big difference to all students, and notably GEN students.
While completing the same 1100 clinical hours as other programmes, as required by the Nursing Council, these GEN students do this within two years, while also completing assignments and other academic work at master’s level.
GEN students are working towards the same end goal as undergraduate students. However GEN students sometimes face scepticism and questioning about their two-year master’s programme, no doubt because GEN programmes and GEN students are still navigating relatively new ground in New Zealand.
Many will remember similar concerns with other changes in nursing education, such as the change away from “hospital training” and when degree programmes for nursing were first introduced.
It is worth clarifying that GEN students complete a different master’s degree than RNs who are building on their existing practice. GEN students are at the early stages of developing their nursing knowledge and skills, while RNs who are completing a masters of nursing are practising at an advanced level.
GEN students sometimes face scepticism and questioning about their two-year master’s programme . . .
As the new year starts, you can expect to see nursing students, including some GEN students, in clinical placements. An American nurse wrote these five reminders of why nursing students are good for you.2 These reminders apply to GEN students, but in fact all nursing students.
Why nursing students are good for you
- Nursing students keep you on your toes.
Don’t feel as if you’re being scrutinised or tested; consider it as a way of showing off your skills and knowledge. And if you don’t know, say so, but tell them how to find the answer. You can always ask that they share the answer with you on their next shift — which is helpful to you both.
- Nursing students make you laugh.
It reminds you of where you started and how far you have come!
- Nursing students give you a chance to share your knowledge with someone who really appreciates it.
Nursing students can’t believe they’ll ever become as competent and knowledgeable as you are. You’ll never have a more attentive, appreciative audience.
- Nursing students remind you why you became a nurse.
Watch a nursing student hold a hand, interact with a family, or get their first “thank you” from a patient. It will remind you why you go to work every day.
- Nursing students give you a chance to affect the future of nursing.
You’re not just teaching students — you’re also preparing your future colleagues.2
‘Nursing students can’t believe they’ll ever become as competent and knowledgeable as you are. You’ll never have a more attentive, appreciative audience.’
We who work in nursing education recognise the powerful effect clinically based nurses have in shaping future nurses. Please share your “art of nursing” — that magic that combines the science with your knowledge and experience, and that makes a difference with our patients and their whānau.
Then, the next time you’re asked to help a nursing student, you may find it a mutually beneficial experience and perhaps you’ll say, “I helped a student today — and I really learned from it.”
* Michelle Honey, RN, PhD, is programme director of the master of nursing science programme at the University of Auckland.
* Rachel Macdiarmid, RN, PhD, is head of nursing at the Auckland University of Technology.
- Macdiarmid, R., Turner, R., Winnington, R., McClunie-Trust, P., Donaldson, A., Shannon, K., Merrick, E., Jones, V., & Jarden, R. (2021). What motivates people to commence a graduate entry nursing programme: A mixed method scoping review. BMC Nursing, 20(1), 47.
- Kadis, J. (2002). Why nursing students are good for you. Nursing, 32(10), 32hn8.