Uncovering students’ powerful persistent passion: Implications for policy and practice in widening access and success in healthcare education

Liz Thomas, Vicky Duckworth, Vini Lander, David Allan, Sara Rodriguez-Cuadrado, Vanessa Heaslip, Michele Board

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review


As nursing continues to advance health care in the 21st century, the present change in demographics, tied with the ongoing disparities in health care and health outcomes, will warrant our enduring attention and action. This paper argues that increasing the diversity of the workforce in professional healthcare roles is necessary to meet the demand for nurses, midwives and other health professionals. This drive includes recruiting and retaining a culturally diverse workforce that mirrors the United Kingdom’s change in demographics and to reduce health disparities. Our qualitative study in England recruited, trained and supported ten student-peer-researchers, who explored the experiences of 70 ‘non-traditional’ students and recent graduates in National Health Service (NHS)-funded higher education programmes. A key theme of the majority of participants was a powerful persistent passion to be healthcare professionals, which offered them resilience in addressing and overcoming the entry hurdles, sustained them through the many barriers and challenges they experienced on their journey to becoming qualified, and ultimately delivered diversity to the NHS. This is in contrast to the way in which widening participation in healthcare education is discussed in the literature, where the focus is on what students’ lack (awareness, information and academic credentials); the dominant discourse is of student deficit, rather than strength. This paper explores how students’ ‘powerful persistent passion’ can be recognised, validated and nurtured – rather than ignored, exploited and eroded – to facilitate widening access and improving retention and success in higher education, by higher education and healthcare providers working closely together.
Original languageEnglish
JournalWidening Participation and Lifelong Learning
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 7 Jan 2019


  • Health Education
  • Widening Participation
  • Diversity
  • Health Workforce
  • Persistent Passion


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