What Gets in the Way of Waikato Child Health Nurses Undertaking Child Health Specific Postgraduate Education?
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This study sought to identify the factors which deter and hinder Waikato child health nurses from undertaking postgraduate education and to assess the popularity of such education in the practice areas which support the health of children and their families throughout the Waikato region. The benefits of postgraduate study are well documented throughout the nursing literature. Furthermore, the literature acknowledges the benefits to patient outcomes which specialist knowledge, as part of postgraduate study, enables. The Waikato region has diverse geographical locations; cities, towns and rural communities, and a broad range of practice areas; primary health, secondary and tertiary hospitals all of which employ nurses potentially caring for children. Children and young people have specific and specialised health needs. Child health nurses need to have skills in not only advanced assessment and nursing care but also developmental frameworks, communication across the lifespan and family centred care. This study used an exploratory mixed methods approach to investigate the barriers nurses in this region experience when undertaking specialised child health postgraduate nursing education. The research was undertaken in three phases: a review of existing questionnaires, focus groups to highlight key issues and adaptation of an existing questionnaire to administer more widely. From the literature, two survey tools were identified for customisation to the study context. A draft tool was taken to the focus groups for critique and adaptation ensuring that concerns experienced by Waikato child health nurses were represented in the final questionnaire. The 27-item survey included Likert scale and demographic questions and was distributed as hard copy and email link. From across the variety of public, private, community and hospital-based care settings, 62 child health nurses completed the finalised validated questionnaire. Key findings from the study show that this group of nurses appreciate the importance of advanced education to their practice and careers and are interested in further education. However, ongoing lack of funding support, frustrating systems and processes, an absence of recognition of postgraduate qualifications and responsibilities outside of work continue to be significant factors impeding child health nurses’ uptake of postgraduate education. It is therefore essential that these issues are addressed so that child health nurses gain the knowledge and skills required to care for a population with unique and particular health needs. Further work needs to investigate alternative funding, education delivery and renumeration models to better support advancement of the child health nursing workforce.