In practical terms, if practicing nurses stopped learning they would not be able to keep up with changes: they would not be able to adapt to new demands from the public they serve and the world in which to live and work would become an alien, disturbing environment.
Not all the reasons for an interest in lifelong learning and continuing education are, however, work related. Martin (2000) suggests more idealistic reasons in relation to social inclusion and active citizenship, condemning the concept that human beings are primarily economic animals, obsessed with producing and consuming, ignoring the being in preference for the having.
Burnard and Chapman (2000) see the lifelong learner as one who appreciates the changing nature of knowledge, not one who hoards "dead" knowledge. Maslin-Prothero (2000) recommends that the developing lifelong learner will benefit from information-seeking skills and the ability to process and critically analyse that information. DeMarco et al. (2002) agree with Maslin-Prothero and stress the importance of educators developing strategies that will move students from passive to active learners for the duration of their lives at a professional and a personal level. Hughes (2005, p. 48) advocates that nurses must be self-directed learners, able to identify their own educational needs and pursue "lifelong learning as a method of continuing professional development (CPD)" if they are to develop into critical thinkers, able to apply knowledge and skills to improve client care.
Each person is an individual with characteristics that are related to their life past experiences, work, hopes, fears, strengths and weaknesses (Daines et al., 2002). The purpose of attempting to understand some of the characteristics of the adult learner is not to provide educators with generalisations, but to help them enhance the effectiveness of their teaching and learning interactions. Wlodkowski (2001) identified the most important characteristic of the adult learner, as highly pragmatic and that many have a strong need to acquire knowledge and become competent in its practical application, but Knox (2003) highlighted that adult development goes far beyond the acquisition of competences and that certain phases of the adult learner's life can have an effect on the individuals' learning style, motivation and participation. Educators with a fundamental understanding of adults as learners could provide a supportive and challenging learning environment, reducing barriers to the learner's participation and achievement and being instrumental in enhancing their self-esteem, which based on the andragogical theory of learning and social research, Knowles (2000) identified as the deepest need in human development.
Two decades ago Goodlad (2001) pointed out that the way nursing had been striving for professional status for the last 100 years, seems to indicate an assumed beneficial social form although many analysts do not agree,