Viable Knowledge: The Centrality of Practice
This thesis investigates how individual student nurses construct a body of knowledge that is appropriate and able to support or underpin their practical experiences in the early part of their undergraduate pre-registration nursing programme. It is an exploration of how contemporary nursing students link theory, that is fit for purpose, with the art and skills that are pre-requisite for competent nursing practice. The study is written from the perspective of a senior academic and perceived gatekeeper of professional nursing standards, and uses personal and professional writing to illustrate the ontological stance adopted. Working with the core concepts introduced by Bernstein (1975), Von Glasersfeld (1989), Mezirow et al (2000) inter alia, an emergent research methodology is employed. A questionnaire is used to confirm that the Higher Education Institution where the research was conducted was typical in the UK at the time; web logs (blogs) are used to explore the individual experiences of ten student nurses; and this is supplemented by interviews, naturally occurring and other data to illuminate, extend and contextualise the findings. The findings underpin the construction of a recursive model that links heads, hands and hearts with a central focus on viable knowledge, this being the knowledge that guides practice. The contribution of this study to practice relates to the recognition that knowledge must be presented and transmitted in a viable fashion with practice being maintained as pivotal to the educational process, and the recommendations of the study for curriculum design and delivery reflect this. The research concludes that viable knowledge that is dependent upon the centrality of practice in nurse education should become the defining attribute of the nurse of the future.