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The academic skills that are required for undergraduate study

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This essay will contemplate the academic skills that are required for undergraduate study. It will explore how study skills provide a means of learning effectively for nursing students to meet individual goals, which will encourage continuing life long learning.

This assignment will look at methods that include pre-registration education covering learning skills and styles, the personal learning style of the author, taking notes, getting the best from lectures and academic writing style. It will also include learning from practise and the utilisation of reflective skills, which are essential for Continuing Professional Development (CDP), this study will also consider Post-registration Education and Practise (PREP), a set of Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) standards and guidelines designed to allow the practitioner to provide the best possible care for the patients (NMC, 2002a).

Life long learning is essential to the rapid change in knowledge, technology and society therefore it is important that individuals continually keep updating their skills and expertise. The NMC expects this very such thing in the Code of Professional Conduct (NMC, 2002b). For lifelong learning to be achieved it has been highlighted that nurses should have support from many various sources, such as personal tutors with the confines of the university, and also in their clinical practise provided by mentors. Research suggests that by providing mentorship clinical areas will provide an environment by which learning, knowledge, support and confidence will be increased (Hancock, 2003). By providing mentorship it has also been shown to improve the quality of practise and the service being delivered.

Today there are more opportunities to change career pathways even after leaving university and employers are expecting graduates to demonstrate good CPD (Cottrell, 2003).

Learning is an ability that all individuals have, however it is through bad teaching experiences that some are convinced that they are ‘poor’ learners or may be less capable than others (Maslin-Prothero, 2001). All individuals are able to learn and it is the decision to commit to learning and make the necessary effort that individuals are able to achieve (Winters, 1995).

Through learning the right skills the following short-term goals can be achieved effectively, achievement of a good diploma, ability to become more confident, act well independently and improve academic writing skills. In the long-term these study skills and methods will help to achieve such goals as preparing for CDP and portfolio development, to become eligible for promotion and become more responsible.

Learning can be defined as

“Any more or less permanent change in behaviour, knowledge or belief”

Maslin-Prothero, (2001, page 6)

Understanding how the learning process occurs may help the student to become a more advanced learner (Maslin-Prothero, 2001).

Professional practise is more involved than just learning simple facts and mirroring behaviour of mentors, therefore it is important for students to become more involved in the learning process. Students should apply themselves to the principles that are behind the facts that they are studying so that they can put their knowledge into professional practise, this is known as active learning (Maslin-Prothero, 2001). By understanding the styles of learning it will effectively help students to reach the goal of acting autonomously in their learning, due to having a better understanding of what is expected (Maslin-Prothero, 2001).

During nurse academic learning there will be a variety of teaching methods such as lectures, seminars and practise in clinical areas. It is expected of students that they work independently and therefore it may be useful to identify their personal learning style, by doing this it may help students to prepare for any learning situation as it becomes apparent. The preferred learning style of the author is the reflector. They know this as they prefer to work on their own, through individual study and project work, and they prefer lectures (Maslin-Prothero, 2001).

Notes are taken to aid the learning process, however most people very rarely refer to them but it is important to be aware that note taking is essential (Maslin-Prothero, 2001 ). Notes are taken as a means of reminding students of issues, this includes definitions, points of view and sources of further information (Parnell & Kendrick, 1995). Notes are an important part of lectures, the aims of a lecture are to introduce students to new material in the term of ideas and theories. Lecturers will explain these issues and guide students to further reading. Participation in lectures is important for them to be effective, it is therefore essential that questions should be asked and notes should be taken effectively (Maslin-Prothero, 2001). It would be impossible to take note of every word presented in a lecture so it is useful to know that effective note taking can be noting down key definitions, new ideas, links with other areas of study, sources and references used by the speaker (Parnell & Kendrick, 1995).

In order to get the best from lectures it would be preferable to use the following strategies to prepare before a lecture by reading background material, in preparation identify the purpose by noting key areas of concentration to summarise the content of the lecture, and then review notes in order to plan further reading (Maslin-Prothero, 2001). By utilising this guide to getting the best from note taking and lectures is the starting point to meeting overall goals.

Note taking will provide student nurses with the ability to effectively communicate in writing. This will help meet requirements of academic courses and also clinical practise, with acts of record keeping such as writing of care plans. This is in order to justify changes in practise to managers (Maslin-Prothero, 2001).

It is important that students become competent in writing academically. To be a successful writer it is important to understand that writing is a skill that is to be learnt, refined and constantly improved (Maslin-Prothero, 2001). Academic writing is very different to the way individuals speak or write to friends, this style is idiomatic and is informal as it often includes abbreviations and jargon (Parnell & Kendrick, 1995). Academic writing is formal and exact in order to get straight to the point raised and is supported by evidence (Maslin-Prothero, 2001).

There are many methods that are useful in developing individual writing skills, writing a reflective journal helps to develop writing skills (Cottrell, 2003). For student nurses a reflective journal can be kept regarding practise on wards and of academic learning experiences, as writing a journal is for the individual’s benefit, it can be kept personal and individuals can experiment with different writing styles. Having good reflective skills is also important to post-registered nurses as “life long learning can be seen as a cradle to grave learning activity” (Gopee, 2000). The NMC has stated since April 2002 PREP requires that practitioners have to demonstrate that they have maintained and developed professional knowledge and competence (NMC, 2002a). Demonstrating these skills through training as a pre-registered nurse will help to prepare for successful post-registration practise. “…continuing professional development for nurses is now clearly identified as necessary to the continued improvement of clinical services” (Lawton & Wimpenny, 2003).

To conclude it is vital that pre-registration nurses receive effective teaching from both university lectures and clinical educators such as mentors. By providing in-depth knowledge and the basis to develop skill than nurse education can be successfully completed. Quality education provides the foundations for good clinical practise, it provides individuals with the ability to practise competently with expertise and skill (Hancock, 2003).

From this essay it can be ascertained that a variety of study methods can provide essential theories and knowledge that pre-registered nurses can utilise and carry through their nursing careers. Students will find the study method that best suits them and which they will gain the most from.

Nurse education is not just focused on student nurses, it is essential that post-registered nurses continually update their knowledge with the latest studies to provide the best evidence based research that is required to provide good quality practise. By continually updating their knowledge post-registered nurses are then in a position whereby they are able to mentor and teach new and junior nurses by providing them with the knowledge and skill they require to achieve the best outcomes. Mentorship is something that provides the partnership lifelong learning requires (Hancock, 2003), and as such is a valuable resource for any department or ward for promoting learning in the environment.

Lifelong learning is of great importance for the post-registered nurses CPD, by completing further education within nursing or a particular speciality it can open up all matter of career opportunities. CPD will provide nurses with the academic and personal development they require throughout their professional lives (Davis & Bheenuck, 2003).

It is without doubt that lifelong learning will affect the delivery of our health service. So by encouragement and provision of support systems standards can be set for the improvement of theoretical and the practical knowledge and skill that will provide the best quality for patients and clients.

Personal Reflection

I was initially apprehensive with regards to essay writing as I have never studied at this type of academic level, or written an assignment with a limited amount of words and in the style of the third person. I have highlighted this as my critical incident.

To help me overcome my initial apprehension I spoke to those who I knew had already completed their training and had abetter knowledge in formal essay writing. This was not my only source for gaining knowledge on essay writing, prior to writing this assignment we were able to attend lectures and seminars on essay writing so this enabled me to know what was expected from me.

There are many sources available to me whereby I can collect relevant research to help with my essays such as the internet. I already had experience utilising the internet, this enabled me to download current and relevant nursing issues that helped me with the course work. One area in which I was not familiar was the library and its many valuable sources of information, however this was overcome when I was introduced to the library and its extensive data. I have learnt that the research I require to achieve a good quality assignment can be sought not only through text books but also in the many nursing journals that are available to me in the library and in newsagents. These journals provide up-to date research findings that help in evidenced based practise.

I now have a clear understanding that it is important to reference within the text so that there is no issue of plagiarism. I have also learnt the Harvard referencing system, this at the beginning proved difficult however I feel slightly more confident and with time will become more competent. I have also found that course tutors are another valuable source of information when writing an assignment.

I have learnt to consider time management, I now know it is essential to allocate sufficient time to complete my assignments and not leave it until the last minute. I realise that I cannot go out socialising all the time, as this time may be better spent studying.

Allocation of time is just one implication to my study plan, now that I am further into my study, and am well used to practise. I have become aware of time scales and allocate time appropriately for study. Placements play a positive role in my study plan as I will be able to relate theory to practise. I will be able to identify and relate what I have learnt in lectures. It will provide me with better knowledge for assignment writing when relating theory to practise.

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