'Ready to hit the ground running': alumni and employer accounts of a unique part-time distance learning pre-registration nurse education programme

Draper, Jan; Beretta, Ruth; Kenward, Linda; McDonagh, Lin; Messenger, Julie and Rounce, Jill (2014). 'Ready to hit the ground running': alumni and employer accounts of a unique part-time distance learning pre-registration nurse education programme. Nurse Education Today, 34(10) pp. 1305–1310.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nedt.2014.06.007



This study explored the impact of The Open University’s (OU) pre-registration nursing programme on students’ employability, career progression and its contribution to developing the nursing workforce across the United Kingdom. Designed for healthcare support workers who are sponsored by their employers, the programme is the only part-time supported open/distance learning programme in the UK leading to registration as a nurse. The international literature reveals that relatively little is known about the impact of previous experience as a healthcare support worker on the experience of transition, employability skills and career progression.


To identify alumni and employer views of the perceived impact of the programme on employability, career progression and workforce development.


A qualitative design using telephone interviews which were digitally recorded, transcribed verbatim prior to content analysis to identify recurrent themes.


Three geographical areas across the UK.


Alumni (n=17) and employers (n=7). Inclusion criterion for alumni was a minimum of two years post-qualifying experience. Inclusion criteria for employers were those that had responsibility for sponsoring students on the programme and employing them as newly qualified nurses.


Four overarching themes were identified: Transition, Expectations, Learning for and in practice, and Flexibility.


Alumni and employers were of the view that the programme equipped them well to meet the competencies and expectations of being a newly qualified nurse. It provided employers with a flexible route to growing their own workforce and alumni the opportunity to achieve their ambition of becoming a qualified nurse when other more conventional routes would not have been open to them. Some of them had already demonstrated career progression. Generalising results requires caution due to the small, self-selecting sample but findings suggest that a widening participation model of pre-registration nurse education for employed healthcare support workers more than adequately prepares them for the realities of professional practice.

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