Biosciences in nurse education: is the curriculum fit for practice? Lecturers’ views and recommendations from across the UK

Penelope Goacher, Vanessa Taylor, Sarah Ashelford, Patricia Fell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)
8 Downloads (Pure)


Aims and objectives. This study aims to review the biosciences component of preregistration nursing programmes in higher education institutions across the UK through the experiences and perceptions of lecturers involved in nursing education.
Background. Studies suggest that some qualified nurses lack confidence in explaining the bio-scientific rationale for their clinical practice. Biosciences can be difficult to understand and integrate into clinical decision-making and require protected time within preregistration nurse education. In the absence of explicit national guidelines, it is unclear as to the depth and extent biosciences are taught across different institutions and the level achieved at the point of registration.
Design. A survey approach was adopted to generate quantitative and qualitative feedback.
Methods. Data were collected using a semi-structured questionnaire seeking the experiences and views of lecturers involved in teaching biosciences to nursing students across the UK. Data received from 10 institutions were analysed using descriptive statistics and thematic analysis.
Results. Lecturers reported that the hours of taught biosciences ranged from 20–113 hours, principally within the first year. This represents between 04–24% of time within a preregistration nursing programme (4600 hours). Large group lectures predominate, supplemented by smaller group or practical work,
and online materials. The biosciences are assessed specifically in half the institutions surveyed and as part of integrated assessments in the rest. In relation to student feedback, all respondents stated that students consistently requested more time and greater priority for biosciences in their programme.
Conclusions. This survey suggests that the number of hours spent teaching biosciences is minimal and varies widely between higher education institutions. All respondents expressed concern about the challenges of teaching difficult bio-scientific concepts to large groups in such a limited time and called for greater clarity in national guidelines to ensure that all nurses are adequately educated and assessed in bioscience subjects.
Relevance to clinical practice. Failure to understand the biosciences underpinning care has implications for safe and competent nursing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2797–2806
JournalJournal of Clinical Nursing
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2015


  • Bioscience
  • nurse education
  • patient care
  • clinical decision-making

Cite this