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Community nurses' perceptions and experiences of protected learning time: a focus group study

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Background: Protected learning time (PLT) has spread quickly to primary healthcare teams in Scotland. Previous research has shown that PLT is generally well received, but that different professional and occupational groups have differing perceptions and experiences of PLT. Community nurses have low rates of attendance at practice-based PLT in NHS Ayrshire and Arran. It is not known why.

Aims: To explore and understand the community nurses' perceptions and experiences of PLT, and to discover the barriers to their attendance at practicebased PLT.

Design: Qualitative study involving four focus groups of 37 community nurses.

Setting: Three community health partnerships in one NHS health board area in Scotland.

Methods: Focus group interviews were conducted, audio-recorded and then transcribed. Transcriptions were analysed using a grounded theory approach to data analysis.

Results: Community nurses often had separate learning events at PLT, and were not involved in the processes of learning with the general medical practice. Chosen topics were often irrelevant to them and their attendance was low. Learning was often uniprofessional. Community nurses perceived they did not have adequate protection from service delivery during PLT. They felt that practice managers had a key role in the delivery of PLT, and that team working and team learning were important, and useful if done well. They considered that the new contract had had a negative impact on PLT.

Discussion: Community nurses need to be involved more in the learning process, if PLT is to be relevant and useful to them and the practice. Nursing managers may need to increase the service protection for community nurses in order to allow them to learn with the rest of the primary healthcare team. Those who organise PLT at primary care organisation level may have to consider using independent facilitators to effect changes.


Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: NHS Education for Scotland

Publication date: February 1, 2008

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