Breaking circuits

Messenger, Julie and Waights, Verina (2010). Breaking circuits. In: Nurse Education Tomorrow, 7-9 Sep 2009, Cambridge, UK.


This first paper sets the historical and political context underpinning current models of practice learning in pre-registration nursing. In the UK, nursing students traditionally have rotated through a range of placement circuits, undertaking a set number of weeks in designated settings in order to complete a total of 2300 hours of practice learning set by the Nursing and Midwifery Council. An assumption inherent in this model is that 4 weeks ‘doing’ time on an acute surgical ward, for example, will equip students with the necessary skills to care for patients. The model therefore privileges time ‘done’ rather than emphasising the key features of a quality learning environment.

We argue therefore that this model of placement circuits does not necessarily assure a quality learning experience. Drawing on vignettes and scenarios from practice, we propose a more contemporary approach to learning in practice. The ‘breaking circuits’ metaphor implies a move away from ‘doing time’, where students are seen as short-term visitors in practice settings, to a different model that recognises the vast diversity of and potential for learning in practice, whatever and wherever that practice happens to be.

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