In the course of their jobs nurses and midwives can be the first to identify children at risk of abuse and neglect and the skills to manage these difficult issues have not always been prominent in nursing and midwifery education.
A project at the University of Technology, Sydney, led by Dr Carolyn Briggs of the UTS Centre for Midwifery Child and Family Health, has developed a set of curriculum standards on child protection to integrate this important content into nursing and midwifery courses.
"This is part of a national strategy to provide nurses and midwives with the skills, knowledge and support they need to confidently and effectively respond to situations where children may be vulnerable to abuse and neglect," Dr Briggs said.
"While governments provide legal and policy frameworks and service delivery guidelines there is often minimal information in the government reports about how health professionals should be educated to act."
As the course coordinator of the Graduate Certificate in Child and Family Health Nursing at UTS, Dr Briggs said she appreciated the need to support nurses and midwives in their child protection role.
"Every nurse and midwife has a responsibility to be an advocate for children. Dealing with child protection issues can be a very confronting experience for clinicians, so they really want to have clear information on what to do."
The curriculum standards are centred on core values that relate to child-centred issues, family/environmental issues and cultural and professional issues.
They are intended to:
- guide curriculum designers towards a primary health care approach for child protection content;
- indicate the teaching and learning principles and expected outcomes;
- provide benchmarks for nursing and midwifery programs on child protection content and teaching, and;
- point to suitable resources for educators to enhance learning and teaching
The Centre for Midwifery Child and Family Health (CMCFH) is also producing a package of learning material that will be distributed free to all Australian schools of nursing and midwifery later this year.
It will contain video clips and other resources to promote interactive learning about initiatives to reduce social isolation and support parents to nurture and protect their children.
The development of the learning package is funded by the Ian Potter Foundation and coordinated by CMCFH Professors Nicky Leap and Cathrine Fowler.
Both the nursing and midwifery curriculum standards and the learning package project are part of the Professionals Protecting Children initiative by the Australian Centre for Child Protection at the University of South Australia. This initiative aims to increase the level and quality of child protection education for all professionals coming into contact with children and families.
The curriculum standards were presented at this week's International Nurse Education conference held in Sydney in which the UTS Faculty of Nursing Midwifery and Health was a conference partner.