The aim of this study was to explore the context and culture of workplace based learning. This research utilises the perspective of nurse educators employed in District Health Boards (DHB’s) that are not in tertiary centres throughout New Zealand. These specific DHBs were chosen because of their geographical isolation from Universities who provide alternative choices of ongoing post-registered learning.
The objectives of this research were to explore the rationale underpinning the development of education programmes within urban district hospitals throughout Aotearoa, New Zealand. As well as to discern how these workplaces develop education programmes and to consider how prepared nurse educators were to fulfil their roles as lifelong learning facilitators and mentors.
Nurses struggle with issues surrounding work life balance and have difficulty accessing other forms of professional development (Aoki & Davies, 2002; Bahn, 2007; Brinkman, Wilson-Salt, & Walker, 2008; Dorian, Hall, & Jones, 2008; Gould, Drey, & Berridge, 2007). The current financial and lifestyle circumstances impact upon workplace-based learning and has become more significant than ever before. There is an obvious gap between the learning nurses engage in at the pre-registration level and the formal post graduate level of professional development. There is a clear requirement to foster learning during a nurses development post registration (Brinkman et al., 2008). The majority of nurses in New Zealand have identified that they prefer and choose to participate in workplace based professional development (Brinkman et al., 2008). This research has been undertaken to paint a picture of workplace based learning for nurses practicing in these unique areas throughout New Zealand.
A mixed methods study was undertaken. A questionnaire was developed and was sent to nurse educators employed in urban hospitals throughout New Zealand. This was followed by seven educators participating in telephone interviews, which generated a wealth of qualitative data. The SPSS computer software was utilised to manage and analyse the quantitative data. The semi-structured interviews were transcribed verbatim and thematic analysis was undertaken for this qualitative data.
The sample surveyed (n=105) nurse educators throughout 13 District Health Boards within New Zealand, Aotearoa. The research found a dichotomy existed between the views of the educators and the practice of workplace based learning within the organisations that they were employed. The educators viewed nurses learning was a priority for both the organisation and the nurses they work alongside. Whereas the findings from this relatively small study suggest that in practice there was little actual support in place to create and promote an environment of perpetual learning. The basics required for optimal learning were not present in all the establishments surveyed. These basics included a number of key requirements for optimal learning to occur, these included; organisations lacked the ability to communicate philosophies of learning clearly to staff, there were barriers associated with the sparseness of available resources and equipment along with limited access to ideal learning environments whereby learning was expected to take place. However despite the restrictions surrounding learning in the workplace, the nurse educators themselves had demonstrated they were well motivated and had clearly prepared themselves commendably in terms of postgraduate learning in order to fulfil their role.
The findings surrounding strategies to encourage and support both Maori and overseas nurses to participate in workplace based learning found little or no insight to provide strategies that support groups that New Zealand struggles to recruit and retain in its workforce.
In order for New Zealand to provide quality care to the public, the utilisation of workplace-based learning is necessary to foster a pioneering nursing workforce. The nursing workforce in New Zealand was made up of 92.5% women and the average age was 45years (Health Workforce New Zealand, 2012; Nursing Council of New Zealand, 2012a). The profile of the nursing workforce reflects a group of people who juggle unpaid external responsibilities alongside professional demands (Dorian et al., 2008). There is a clear demand for an innovative learning culture to exist that can be utilised and meet both the demands of the nurse and those of the organisation (Garcarz, Chambers, & Ellis, 2003). A number of themes evolved within this study, suggesting a way to develop this important concept within urban district hospitals. One key area was the provision of well-structured and sufficiently resourced learning programmes. The lack of a clear philosophy would appear to fall down in the communication process. Many participants suggested that the leadership within organisations need to establish and communicate clear philosophies of lifelong learning, which emphasise and value all nurses’ unique needs including academic, professional and cultural ongoing professional development. Meeting the needs of the organisation, the individual and the nurse educator’s needs could bring about a revolution of lifelong workplace learning. These needs identified in this study were time, resources, and equipment to empower all stakeholders to fulfil their roles, all of which would have an impact on quality, safe and sustainable health care.||