ABSTRACT: Human and social capital as facilitators of lifelong learning in nursing
To ensure that lifelong learning is, and remains, a reality as a vehicle for facilitating continuing professional learning in nursing, certain mechanisms need to be instituted specifically for this purpose. Some of the key organisational facilitators for achieving this include individual performance reviews, Workforce Development Confederations, professional self-regulation, and Investors in People awards.
In a study exploring nurses’ perceptions of lifelong learning, it emerged that in addition to the organisational mechanisms that are necessary to achieve this aspiration, there are also various non-organisational or informal factors at work that enable nurses to initiate and continue professional learning. It seems that substantial informal teaching, learning and facilitation of learning occur through work-based contacts with other healthcare professionals, and this is complemented by support from non-healthcare related other significant individuals. These factors seem to constitute the notion of human and social capital (HSC), which is a concept that has been implicated as a significant instigator or enabler of professional learning.
This paper examines these non-organisational factors, clarifies the meanings and roles of human capital and social capital in healthcare, and discusses their implications for lifelong learning in nursing. The analysis is supported by findings from a qualitative study, which comprised of 27 semi-structured individual interviews and two focus groups with RNs on D grade and above.