In the aftermath of the Francis Report nurses are being called to account for an apparent lack of care and compassion, leading to debate around pedagogy in nurse education. Absent from this debate is a consideration of student volunteering within undergraduate nursing programmes and its potential to promote student nurses self-esteem and to enhance the development of critical thinking skills. The aim of this study was therefore to understand the extent of and attitudes towards volunteering among nursing students. A mixed methods approach using a specifically developed questionnaire, followed by in-depth interviews to ascertain extent, variability, and attitudes towards volunteering revealed low levels of volunteering among nursing students. Limited time, limited access, and lack of academic support were cited as reasons. Nevertheless, students displayed positive attitudes towards volunteering. While volunteering has been shown to impact upon students abilities to think critically, to develop personal values and respond to the needs of others, volunteering within the UK undergraduate nursing programme considered here is neither structured nor formalized. Nurse educators should pay attention to the positive benefits of volunteering for nursing students and consider ways in which volunteering might be incorporated into the curriculum.
Keywords: Care and compassion; Critical thinking; Pedagogy; Undergraduate nursing students; Volunteering.
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