"We have to completely rethink nursing!"

27.09.2019 | In time for the 2020/21 winter semester, ASH, the Alice Salomon University of Applied Sciences Berlin, is launching the first bachelor's degree to offer a primary qualification in nursing at Brain City Berlin. The overall goal: to ensure the quality of care through rigorous, academic training. In addition, the academic training will transform the profession from a research perspective. Professor Dr Gudrun Piechotta-Henze, Professor of Nursing Science at ASH Berlin, tells us more about the new course and the current problems and prospects facing nursing in Germany from an academic perspective in an interview.


Dr Piechotta-Henze, ASH Berlin is the first university in Berlin to introduce a primary qualification in nursing as a bachelor's degree programme.  How did this come about?

In 2016, policymakers approached us and asked whether we could extend our previous programmes to the university level. In particular, the concern was about the capacities in our existing bachelor's programmes in social work and early childhood education. In addition, we were asked to establish a new course offering a primary qualification in nursing. ASH accepted this challenge. In Berlin, there will be a total of three locations offering coursework leading to this new nursing qualification: EHB, the Protestant University of Applied Sciences Berlin, which had been offering a dual apprenticeship-bachelor's course for several years, will switch this to primary qualifying course in 2020. And the Charité, the city's medical school and teaching hospital, will also be on board.

What is special about the new ASH course?

After completing the seven-semester course, students will receive both a bachelor of science degree and be qualified nursing specialists. After that, they can continue on the academic path and earn a master's degree and even a doctorate or go straight into practice. They have many interesting career options.

Does making this training academic mean a disconnect from practical training?   

No, even though I often hear that. But it's definitely not true. Anyone who studies nursing will later want to work closely with people. Specifically, it may well mean, for example, that our graduates will later spend half their time engaged in continuing education or research and the other with direct care of patients. They will be entering the job market with a highly developed set of skills. For example, international studies have shown that nurses with an academic background are more likely to understand the situation when emergencies or complications arise and react in a comprehensive manner.

Where might graduates of the new course be employed?

Hospitals and nursing homes are already addressing this topic intensively. We have to completely rethink nursing! Nursing staff with a university education can work very independently and can, for example, also offer consultancy services. There will probably be a new distribution of tasks to come.

To what extent can a stronger academic training counteract today's skills shortage?

Of course, we can't perform miracles at ASH Berlin. But we are confident that a nursing programme like ours will be able to contribute to a higher quality of care. However, this assumes that the framework conditions will change. Basically, the field currently suffers from working hours that are not compatible with family life, high workloads, and low social status. In order to make nursing a more attractive profession, they need to be treated by doctors and administrators as professionals on an equal footing. Their pay also needs to be better. This cannot be done without adding an academic element to their training. We therefore urge policymakers to consider nursing as an academic discipline and to make it financially more attractive to potential professionals.

Professor Dr Gudrun Piechotta-Henze, Professor of Nursing Science at ASH Berlin

Anyone who studies nursing will later want to work closely with people.

As already mentioned, the practical relevance in nursing education is essential. How do you integrate praxis into the new study programme?

Basically, we will prepare the students step-by-step, but thoroughly for practical deployment. In the first semester, we train exclusively in the seminar room and in the learning laboratory. We first focus on the theory. Students will, for example, learn how to measure blood pressure together with everything that goes with it. In the second step, the theoretical knowledge is then expanded in the skills lab. Here the students will practice on mannequins or with actors playing patients. From the second semester, they'll head out into clinical practice. The assignments at our partners will run four to ten weeks each. Students will there under practical guidance and supervision. What's important is that our students are not being thrown into the deep end, but will instead be well prepared for praxis and will also continuously reflect on what they have done and what they have learned. 

Which partners will ASH be working with in Berlin?

We are staying, so to speak, in our neighbourhood, i.e. Marzahn-Hellersdorf and also Brandenburg, but there will be some exceptions. Fortunately, several potential cooperation partners have approached us and are very involved in the preparations. 

ASH Berlin is a member of SAGE, the newly founded university association for social work, health, and education training. The participating universities have agreed to a close exchange of knowledge and experience among themselves and practice. How does the concept of the new ASH study programme reflect this? 

Especially in the focus on the social space. Nursing is usually still thought of as exclusively being clinical. But this has not been the case for a long time. We need to take up the demographic change and changing life situations and styles, for example, to see how people in their usual environment can be well cared for even in old age. As part of the SAGE concept, for example, students from the ASH programmes in social work, early childhood education, and physical and occupational therapy will receive interdisciplinary training alongside nursing students in certain modules. Together they will also learn to break new ground.

What sets Berlin apart as a centre for science and research?

Above all, the diversity and the wide range of scientific and research institutions. Berlin is a big city with many universities, research facilities, and training institutes. You can network very well across disciplines here. For example, we are planning a research project with female professors in industrial design, public health, and nursing. Such relatively uncomplicated interdisciplinary possibilities to develop ideas, visions, and partnerships are typical of Berlin!" (vdo)