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Context, complexity and cross-pollination: Nursing leaders' views of the role of the voluntary and community sector in nurse education

Kyle, Richard G.; Atherton, Iain M.; Lasater, Kathie


Richard G. Kyle

Kathie Lasater


Placements in voluntary and community sector (VCS) organisations have long played an important part in student nurses' education in several countries. New standards for nurse education published by the Nursing and Midwifery Council in the United Kingdom include significant changes to practice supervision arrangements that enable students to spend more time in VCS organisations.

To assess nursing leaders' views on the role of the VCS in nursing education and benefits of VCS placements for students and organisations.

Qualitative interview study.

Twenty-four nursing leaders from academic (n=15), practice (n=4) and regulatory (n=5) sectors.

Semi-structured interviews were conducted face-to-face (n=21), by telephone (n=2) or Skype (n=1). Interviews were transcribed and analysed, using interview questions as structural themes, followed by inductive thematic analysis.

Nursing leaders identified three key roles for the VCS in nursing education: (1) determining knowledge needs; (2) developing curricula; (3) providing placements. Five key benefits of VCS placements for students were shared: (1) understanding the contribution of the VCS to care; (2) seeing the context and complexity of people's lives; (3) challenging attitudes and perceptions; (4) gaining confidence, knowledge and skills; and (5) supporting career decisions. Three benefits for VCS organisations were found: (1) cross-pollinating knowledge, skills and networks; (2) changing organisational cultures; (3) promoting careers in the VCS.

Changes to practice supervision models enabling closer relationships with the VCS were welcomed. Nursing leaders thought that VCS placements had potential to cross-pollinate ideas and harness the role of student nurses as knowledge brokers in increasingly integrated health and social care systems. Nurse educators should embrace opportunities offered through collaboration with the VCS for student learning and deeper partnerships across health and social care settings to enable students to gain deeper insight into the context and complexity of people's lives.


Kyle, R. G., Atherton, I. M., & Lasater, K. (2021). Context, complexity and cross-pollination: Nursing leaders' views of the role of the voluntary and community sector in nurse education. Nurse Education Today, 99,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 16, 2020
Online Publication Date Jan 5, 2021
Publication Date 2021-04
Deposit Date Jun 2, 2021
Journal Nurse Education Today
Print ISSN 0260-6917
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 99
Article Number 104732
Keywords Health care, Social care, Community partnership, Health and social care integration, Practice supervision, Voluntary and community sector, Third sector
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