Nursing degree: breakthrough for St. Angela's
By Leo Gray The Government's decision to approve a new nursing degree programme at St. Angela's College, Sligo, has been welcomed by the health profession, educationalists and politicians.
The initiative, which provides for the allocation of £7 million in capital grants to St. Angela's College for the construction of purpose-built facilities to accommodate nursing students, has been hailed as an "historic" breakthrough and a significant boost for the nursing profession.
A total of 65 nursing places will be available annually at St. Angela's which will have a nursing student population of 260 over the four years of the new pre-registration nursing degree programme announced by the Minister for Health and Children, Micheal Martin.
Clinical experience for the students will be provided in a range of hospitals and other settings throughout the North Western Health Board area.
The new degree programme will be of four years duration and will commence in the academic year 2002-2003.
Local recruitment for the programme will commence next week and will be headed up by Lorraine Beirne, Learning Disability Service, Denis O'Brien, Mental Health Service and Maura McGettrick, Sligo General Hospital.
Welcoming the new programme, Mr. Michael Hanley, President of St. Angela's College, said the Minister's investment of capital funding was a major boost for the continuing developments of nurse education in the college.
"The Government investment in nurse education at this time is a very positive signal to the profession", he said.
He complimented members of the local partnership agreement with the college, which includes the North Western Health Board, Directors of Nursing and principal nurse tutors from Sligo General Hospital and Cregg House, as well as representatives from management of both partners, for their efforts in bringing forward the development of nurse education at local level and ensuring that adequate funds for the proposed transition within the third level sector would be secured.
Mr. Jim Callaghan, Head of the Nursing Department at St. Angela's College, described the initiative as a major step forward in providing the resources for nursing to become an all graduate profession.
He said the development would improve the education provision for nurses of the future and would ultimately contribute to a higher quality of patient care in the region.
Mr. Callaghan added that the coming together of the two disciplines of nursing, general and mental handicap, under the one roof was another major advancement in the development of the profession.
He paid tribute to all members of the partnership, including the management at St. Angela's College and the North Western Health Board, for their commitment to nurse education.
The Principal Tutor of the School of Nursing, Sligo General Hospital, Mary Hodson, described the announcement as an "historic occasion".
"Nurse education has finally received due recognition as a third level academic course", she said. "The preparation of a competent, reflective nurse practitioner is crucial in the continued delivery of quality patient\client care".
She said the School of nursing, under the director of nursing, Ms Martina Healy, looked forward to working in partnership with St. Angela's College in the delivery of the innovative programme.
Mr. Jim Browne, Director of Nurse Planning with the North Western Health Board, pointed out that the new degree programme would provide nurses with the theoretical framework which would enable them to develop their clinical skills to a much greater extent and to respond to future health care for the benefit of patients and clients.
The Health Board welcomed the allocation of the substantial additional revenue which would be required to support the programme, particularly in the clinical setting areas.
Of particular importance to the Board was the additional funding of eighty places over a four year period in mental handicap nursing in the northern part of the region, said Mr. Browne. This would allow the Board to continue its developments in the area of services for persons with a learning disability.
The Board also welcomed the Minister's support for part time degree courses in nursing. This would ensure that the Board could continue to have a highly skilled and competent nursing workforce for the future.
Mr. Browne noted that the Minister had also announced the introduction of a sponsorship scheme for suitable experienced health care assistants who wished to train as nurses.
There would be up to forty sponsorships available throughout the country annually and it was hoped that some health care assistants in the Board's area would be able to participate in the scheme.
The Board was also participating in a pilot training scheme for twenty health care assistants in the Learning Disability Services in the Sligo/Leitrim area and this would greatly enhance their capacity to build and improve existing services.
"The Board is looking forward to continuing its partnership with Cregg House and St. Angela's College in the preparation of nurses to enter the workforce and to compliment nursing skills and knowledge for our existing workforce", said Mr. Browne.
The new degree programme at St. Angela's was also welcomed by Sligo/Leitrim Fianna Fail TD, Deputy John Ellis, who said the initiative meant that the importance of nurses' work and training was recognised by the Government.