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Last Updated: Saturday, 10 January, 2004, 23:44 GMT
Computer test of nurses' 'bottle'
Nurses' roles are becoming more demanding
Psychologists have designed a computer test to measure nurses' ability to make difficult decisions and act on them under pressure.

The aim is to get a clue about whether a nurse can work effectively when faced with a potentially emotionally charged situation.

The test examines courage, nerve, initiative and resilience.

It has been developed by Nottingham University and a private company Interactive Skills.

They need to be aware of their own and others emotions
Dr Raymond Randall
The research has been commissioned by the National Health Service University (NHSU) to support the training of a new breed of nurse.

First Contact Practitioners will be qualified to post-graduate level and will be expected to perform medical duties in GP surgeries.

The FCP role has been created as part of a drive to improve access to and quality of care in the NHS.

The NHSU and Sheffield Hallam University are running the first MSc programme for FCPs, which will begin early this year.

In drawing up plans for the course, the researchers found that the biggest problem preventing some nurses from realising their full potential was a lack of confidence in their own abilities.

This often resulted in unnecessary deferral to physicians for decision-making.

Conversely, they found some nurses were over-confident, and prone to follow treatment programmes which were not necessarily appropriate.

Tough role

Dr Raymond Randall, who worked on the design, told BBC News Online that the role of the FCP nurse would be a demanding one.

"It requires people who can take charge of a situation, and who don't just let it unfold without their intervention," he said.

"They need to be aware of their own and others emotions, how they impact on a situation, and how they can be controlled."

The developers of the test say it has the potential to be applied in many other professionals that require "bottle".

It features a number of scenarios which the person taking the test is asked to comment on.

For instance, one features a nurse reduced to tears by a demanding GP. The person taking the test is asked whether she would continue to talk to the GP, or whether they would try to avoid referring problems to that doctor in future.

Dr Randall said the idea was to identify areas of weakness which could be worked on with the advice of a mentor.

Details of the test were presented at the British Psychological Society's annual occupational psychology conference.

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