Professor, is it worthwhile to study nursing…??

You want to develop yourself further after years in the profession? Does a change of job, further training or even a degree in nursing help you to do this? We have worked with prof. Dr. Jurgen Harlein, Professor of Nursing Science at the Protestant University of Applied Sciences in Nuremberg, spoke about this very topic.

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Prof. Dr. Jurgen Harlein is head of the Health program for general nursing sciences at the Protestant University of Applied Sciences in Nuremberg

Prof. Dr. Jurgen Harlein is head of the Health program for general nursing sciences at the Protestant University of Applied Sciences in Nuremberg.

A nurse asks herself the question: is studying in nursing worth it? What would be your answer to this?

Prof. Dr. Jurgen Harlein: As a university teacher, I say that education always pays off in the medium term, whether personally or financially. The best answers are given by colleagues who have studied after 20 years in the profession. Many report that they are now able to solve problems using scientifically based methods and study results for issues in which they would previously have acted on gut instinct. The use of scientific competencies and a research-based infrastructure in nursing has been slept on for years in Germany, but is of immense importance.

How do you assess the development with regard to academization in nursing?? Especially with regard to the number of study places and students?

Harlein: Of course, it has to be said here that the range of study options and courses offered in the field of nursing has increased enormously in recent years. Since the 1990s, the number of university locations and courses of study has grown very strongly. How this will continue in the future depends on how strongly politics and society, but also the nursing profession itself, promote this growth. The factors of economization and rationing in the health care system also play a role.

We have more and more people who need care, but the financial means and human resources for this are limited. However, every person has a right to good care that is based on current knowledge. Of course, that begs the question, in what format and at what price will this better nursing care be accessible.

Jobs for academics: "Concepts still in drawer"

Bayerischer Rundfunk reports that the proportion of academics in hospitals is only about one percent. Ten times that number would make sense. Are there enough jobs for academics in nursing at all??

Harlein: To be honest, it has to be said that at the moment there are only a few exemplary facilities in Germany that have concepts in the drawer for integrating nursing specialists with academic qualifications accordingly. When I look at our graduates, it is mainly the people who have actively contributed to the development of these areas of responsibility in their institution who have been given a corresponding position.

How can this look in practice??

Harlein: I remember for example a graduate. After 25 years of professional practice on the ward, she had the drive to move forward once again. In a large clinic, she has recognized where there are development opportunities and now holds a specialist management position. She is responsible for coordinating the additional services for people with cognitive impairments in this clinic.

Studying nursing: These areas offer potential

In which areas do you think there is potential for development in nursing??

Harlein: Here I would mention primarily nurse-led programs to help people cope with chronic illness, or wound care, respiratory care and diabetes mellitus. Wound care, for example, is now often provided by wound experts or specialized outpatient nursing services. They could actually take care of this autonomously. However, physicians still need to prescribe and countersign for these treatments, and nursing can take on this package of services itself. Here, academic qualifications can make a significant contribution to further development.

If a nurse is now faced with the choice: Continuing education or studying nursing – what is the added value of academic education here?? When does further education make more sense?

Harlein: We are one of the last countries in Europe where nursing is not yet fully integrated into academia. So what is located in further education in our country is located in study programs mostly at master level in other countries. We therefore have a high overlap in Germany, because the further education system in German nursing is at a very high level. Here, too, work is already being done with scientific materials and sources.

For a study speak the deepening of critical thinking, analytical skills and scientific skills. In addition, the title of an academic degree is naturally more highly placed in the professional world than a continuing education degree. Continuing education certainly has the added value with practical skills, which is much more sound and comprehensive compared to a degree program. But the degree courses also have a very high practical component. In my eyes, it is best to do both in Germany. So after graduation, still add subject-specific advanced and further training courses.

Studies in nursing: This is new in 2020

What are the admission requirements for a degree program in nursing?. Can you study without a high school diploma?

Harlein: In Germany, the regular university admission requirements apply. These are usually the specialized baccalaureate or high school diploma. But there is also the university access regulation via a professional qualification. So people who have three years of professional experience in health and nursing professions can also study. At state universities, however, only 5 percent of study places are awarded in this way. At our Protestant University of Applied Sciences in Nuremberg, that’s about 10 to 20 percent.

What’s new since 2020 is that basic training can now take place via a regular bachelor’s degree program. Previously, this was not possible and one could only attend courses at universities parallel to vocational training. So the bachelor’s degree could not be acquired through several semesters of full-time study.

What does this development towards primary qualifying nursing studies mean??

Harlein: That means a lot. Chances of more autonomy, chances of more development opportunities and more chances of being able to provide evidence-based care to patients, residents and clients more quickly. In other words, in the future, nursing will be based not only on craftsmanship and experience, but also on the results of studies and scientific methods. However, it is uncertain how quickly this development will progress in practice. For the facilities, this means a cultural change with new task profiles and financial hurdles.

Are there courses of study resp. Specialty areas in nursing that you believe will have a high demand in the coming years?

Harlein: The question, of course, is in which areas will investments be made in the future. I believe that this will be mainly in technical support system for people. With the combination of robotics, supply, health and care, there should be good prospects on the labor market, especially economically. Only one should ask oneself also socially whether one would like to have this future in the care. In my opinion, we need specialists for gerontological nursing, for primary care or in palliative care. I believe, however, that politicians see the need more in the technological field.

Pure desk job? That’s what nursing academics are all about

Can the drive for academization also counteract the shortage of skilled workers, as the profession is made more attractive with more opportunities for advancement??

Harlein: Of course, that is a central factor. The offer of a full course of study in particular naturally makes nursing many times more attractive. Of course, the decisive factor is that in the future there will also be a cultural change in the facilities that provide the appropriate jobs for qualified nursing students.

But who will do the old job of a health and nursing assistant after they have a higher qualification?

Harlein: This is always misunderstood. After all, studying also means continuing to be practically active. Nurses with academic qualifications then contribute their extended problem-solving skills and the competence to deal with practical nursing issues in a scientific way. That can only be an advantage. The image of a desk-only job is not true. Of course, academics also have professional management tasks in the office. But they continue to work in practice. When the system of care is improved by the academicized professionals, care always wins in the end.

In the end, you yourself took the step of studying after training to become a health care and nursing professional. What was your motivation for this?

Harlein: I already dealt with these possibilities during my civilian service and was enthusiastic from the beginning, especially about nursing as an academic discipline. I was especially fascinated by the mixing of practice and theory. One matures not only professionally but also as a person, and is given completely new perspectives on nursing through new treatment options and studies.

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