Most would agree that entering the caring professions is a vocation. Whether students choose this vocation because they thrive in a high pressure atmosphere, are intrigued by the workings of the human body or simply want to help people and make a difference, some combination of personal attributes has contributed to this decision. The question is: Can we help students understand the skills necessary to succeed in their nursing course, and ultimately succeed as a professional? More importantly, can we support them to develop those attributes that they may not yet possess?
Health Skills Australia has undertaken a unique project designed to investigate exactly this. Utilising the Cambridge Personal Styles Questionnaire (CPSQ) HSA Diploma of Nursing students reflect on their innate characteristics and those that are necessary for their chosen career. The aim of the project is to judge the effect of this self-reflection tool and subsequent focus on building necessary attributes, on student success and work-readiness.
So, what is the CPSQ?
The Cambridge Personal Styles Questionnaire (CPSQ) is a statistically valid and reliable behavioural styles tool developed over a four year period by Cambridge University UK. It is traditionally used to select students for the health care professions in UK universities, leading to employment with the National Health Service. Personal styles of behaviour are mapped against seven healthcare-related competencies. The CPSQ is particularly relevant to HSA as these ‘personal styles’ link directly with HSA’s core graduate capabilities and were developed independently of the CPSQ’s core health-care competencies. This alignment with our newly developed graduate capabilities is the exciting feature for HSA.
The re-design and delivery of the Diploma of Nursing is currently underway in advance of its re-launch in 2017 and offered a good opportunity to trial the CPSQ with a piloted newly designed unit. As part of HSA’s efforts to ensure students are ready for work and can meet the demands of their chosen career, an important aspect of the re-design is a focus on graduate attributes and capabilities. Reflective practice, as a discipline, is a requirement for nurses in order for them to manage professional development and maintain annual registration, so students are taught to reflect in all units of competency. The CPSQ personal styles tool provides self-awareness and insights for students who are prepared to change and develop with us and provides a focus on what to reflect on about themselves, allowing them to actively work on skills during their study with HSA – emerging, work-ready, at the end of their course.
The project so far…
The CPSQ has the potential to add value to the Diploma of Nursing through developing students’ awareness of the capabilities and attributes required in the nursing profession. With early identification of areas for development related to those competencies, students can better understand where their innate strengths lie and help them focus on those areas that require work. The aim of this second trial is, therefore, to determine whether the CPSQ can usefully support students individually if requested and the group as a whole in identifying personal attributes to work on during the Diploma of Nursing.
The initial trial started in 2015 with the innovative idea of using the survey questionnaire as a retention and learning support strategy tool. The phase II, voluntary trial is currently underway with 43 participants out of the 165 invited to join the trial. Individual reports remain confidential with students, however group trends on low scoring attributes are currently being used for group training needs to address low scoring competencies. This might include attributes such as self-management and engagement with learning, and being able to track these gives educators a focus for development in the class room and on clinical placement.
While data on the success of this ongoing trial is not yet available, it is well evidenced that the skill of focused self-reflection is critical for nursing and all health care professions. Being able to innovate, research and try out tools to help develop this skill means HSA is truly able to support Diploma of Nursing students to become work-ready nurses.