Transition from a higher national certificate healthcare course to an undergraduate nursing programme

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Over the last number of years the widening of access to further and higher education in Scotland has been encouraged by various policy initiatives (Scottish Executive 1999, Scottish Executive 2003). A consequence of these policy initiatives has been a 30% increase in entry to higher education institutions including many non-traditional students with varied educational qualifications (Scottish Government 2008). The Nursing & Midwifery Council (2004) require higher education institutions to acknowledge students’ prior learning and this has also contributed to the widening of access to pre-registration nursing courses. The Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) in Scotland has identified the importance of the transition to a higher education institution and has recognized the significance of the first year student experience by selecting it as one of their Enhancement Themes (Mayes 2009). The aim of this paper is to improve understanding of pre-registration student nurses’ first year experiences following transition from an HNC healthcare course. This is particularly important as the enhancement of the first year student experience is central to current policy (Mayes 2009) and it has been reported that this group of students find the transition to higher education to be particularly challenging (McCune et al. 2010). This study also intends to inform both further and higher education institutions with regards to the development of strategies to facilitate student transition. This was a small explorative study using a qualitative approach. The study was carried out at two campuses of a Scottish university. Research participants were student nurses nearing the end of their first year of an undergraduate nursing programme who had completed an HNC healthcare course prior to entering higher education. The data was obtained through semi-structured interviews and a content thematic analysis was carried out. Results from the data indicate that several factors have an impact on the transition experience of this group of first year student nurses. These include: support networks available in the academic and practice setting; preparation for transition to higher education and clinical practice; geographical challenges; academic challenges and practice experience. The results highlighted that although students felt generally prepared for university, they indicated feeling less prepared for the formal assessment process and self-directed learning. Essay writing and the use of references was found to be particularly challenging for this group. The findings also bring to light the advantages of peer support in both the academic and practice settings and indicate the significant relationship Mentors have with their students in the clinical setting. This study contributes to knowledge development in relation to enhancing the student experience by: • Increasing the understanding of student nurses’ experiences of transition from a further to a higher education institution • Gaining insight into the students’ academic experience • Gaining an understanding of the students’ clinical experience References Mayes, T. (2009) Quality Enhancement Themes: The First Year Experience: Overview of the Enhancement Theme 2006-08: The aims, achievements and challenges, QAA Scotland: Glasgow McCune, V., Hounsell, J., Christie, H., Cree, V. E. & Tett, L. (2010) “Mature and younger students’ reasons for making the transition from further education into higher education”, Teaching in Higher Education, Vol. 15, no. 12, pp. 672-677. Nursing & Midwifery Council (2004) Standards of proficiency for pre-registration nursing education, NMC: London Scottish Executive (1999) Opportunities For Everyone: A Strategic Framework for Scottish Further Education, HMSO: Edinburgh. Scottish Executive (2003) Life Through Learning Through Life: The Lifelong Learning Strategy for Scotland, Scottish Executive: Edinburgh. Scottish Government Statistics (2008) High Level Summary of Statistics: Lifelong Learning, Scottish Government Statistics: Edinburgh.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 10 Sept 2012
Event23rd International Networking for Healthcare Education Conference - Robinson College, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom
Duration: 4 Sept 20126 Sept 2012


Conference23rd International Networking for Healthcare Education Conference
Abbreviated titleNET2012
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • transition
  • student nurses
  • Higher Education (HE)
  • Academic experience
  • Clinical experience


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