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“We do not view ourselves as competition, but rather as a complement to technical colleges“

Nursing Degrees: “We do not view ourselves as competition, but rather as a complement to technical colleges“


Photo: Anke Fesenfeld

Professor Anke Fesenfeld; © private

What does great nursing care look like and what kind of skills do prospective nurses and elderly care nurses actually have to acquire, so patients feel completely comfortable later? spoke with Professor Anke Fesenfeld from the University of Health Sciences in Bochum about the new Nursing Degree program, its focal points and set of objectives. Professor Fesenfeld. In the context of the German Hospital Conference at the MEDICA you introduced the new Bachelor’s degree in “Nursing”1. When was it established and what can students expect?

Fesenfeld: The degree program launched on 09-20-2010 at the University of Health Sciences in Bochum. The fact is that the University itself was only recently established in 2009 and now is the first state University that is authorized to offer undergraduate degrees in the health professions of Occupational Therapy, Speech-Language Pathology, Midwifery, Physical Therapy and Nursing. As far as the nursing degree is concerned, the interdisciplinary approach should be mentioned as something that’s entirely new. What does this interdisciplinary approach look like for students in practice? Are there internships and do students go to nursing homes?

Fesenfeld: The interdisciplinary approach has 29 modules for the nursing degree, of which 6 modules are so-called IPE Modules (Interprofessional Education). That is to say, in these six modules nursing students sit next to students from the Occupational Therapy, Speech-Language Pathology, Physical Therapy and Midwifery disciplines. Students develop subjects together and take their exams in these modules. In addition to that, for our nursing degree in the area of so-called elective modules we offer two additional modules, where students also work side by side with students of the other degree programs.

This means that during their studies, nursing students already experience the expertise of the other health professions. This is how they get to know their own profile and the profile of others – and are able to outline themselves more clearly. Beyond that, an ideal situation would be if our students could also work together in practice with students from other degree disciplines, for instance to solve an actual patient case or to develop a concept for a specific patient in practice, respectively. We are currently also trying to make this idea become a reality. However, it is not entirely clear yet how we can coordinate the different practice times, so students can also find the time to get together. We are of course bound by occupational licensing regulations, which are very different for each individual profession. Are students already obligated to do internships during their studies?

Fesenfeld: The students meet all guidelines as specified in the occupational licensing regulations. In nursing, 2500 practical hours in different health care facilities need to be served. All of our nursing students – unlike the students of the other degree disciplines – hold an apprenticeship indenture. Thus they have a dual status as students and apprentices.

Foto: Young people holding hands

Learning from each other is very important; © Arcurs Doesn’t this carry the risk that the studies might potentially take a backseat? One keeps hearing about apprentices who are taxed far beyond normal working hours. When you consider the staff shortage in elderly care, this is not an unrealistic scenario.

Fesenfeld: Unfortunately I cannot provide any data based on experience yet, since the apprenticeship that is integrated into our degree program doesn’t start until 1- 1-2011 at the end of the first semester. However, we already had some intense talks with our co-operation partners during the development of this degree program to precisely eliminate this particular problem. We talked to the facility directors to ensure contractual provisions, as well as the parties in charge of on-site mentorship. Of course we cannot offer any guarantees, but we are doing everything in our power so that the nature of the apprenticeship and studies are clearly the priority – and not the aspect of manpower. What are the focal points of the degree program?

Fesenfeld: The technical focus in terms of content is of course very much determined by occupational licensing regulations – but it is supplemented by nursing science and epistemological insights. The ability to adequately evaluate studies and transfer them over into everyday routines, the aptitude to participate in corresponding small evaluations or research projects and the awareness of the importance of science-based nursing practice are very important to us. In addition, one of our main focal points certainly pertains to the area of reflection. We expect our students to become very much aware of what they do and how they do it. Do more women or more men choose to study nursing?

Fesenfeld: It is not entirely balanced; we actually have more women students. Yet in terms of percentage, at 20 percent we have a relatively large number of male students. Does this degree program also convey skills that are geared toward obtaining a managerial capacity later on in a career?

Fesenfeld: No, definitely not. With this Bachelor’s degree we do not impart any managerial competencies. That is to say there are no special courses on subjects such as leadership, labor law or management theories for instance. From our point of view, these skills should be taught in Master’s degree courses, which students may choose to pursue after graduation. With our Bachelor’s degree, we want to provide a fundamental academic education – for working directly with the patient or the residents, respectively. And this kind of work obviously requires expertise. We envision our students in the area of individual case management, for instance in the area of Primary Nursing. In addition, we also envision the students to be equipped with the capacity to develop concepts in practice or work as a study nurse. Yet in these fields of duty after graduation, more professional experience is definitely required. How was the response to your lecture from your peers?

Fesenfeld: I got the feeling that there was a lot of interest and curiosity. But of course I can also understand that there are concerns on the part of my colleagues. For instance the question of what happens to previous schooling. Are people who currently work after completing the traditional schooling being replaced? Are they losing their jobs or are we threatening the economic survival of technical colleges in Bochum with our course offer? I want to answer this with a resounding No. We don’t view ourselves as competition, but rather as a complement to technical colleges. And in no way do we want to criticize an established and great concept or replace it with our education program, but we want to complement it. I would like to emphasize this. We merely train for a different job profile in a shifting job market. Thus we offer an additional option for a changing job description in nursing care.

The interview was conducted by Simone Ernst and translated by Elena O’Meara

1: “Studying for nursing practice – a new degree program at the University of Health Sciences at the Health Campus in Bochum“


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