Academic journal article Contemporary Nurse : a Journal for the Australian Nursing Profession

Preceptors and Patients - the Power of Two: Nursing Student Experiences on Their First Acute Clinical Placement

Academic journal article Contemporary Nurse : a Journal for the Australian Nursing Profession

Preceptors and Patients - the Power of Two: Nursing Student Experiences on Their First Acute Clinical Placement

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Experiences on clinical placement can have significant influence on career choices made by undergraduate nursing students (Spouse, 2000). Such experiences may have implications for students continuing their nursing studies and the areas of nursing in which they choose, or not choose, to practice. When reviewing the literature it became apparent that there was limited research explaining the meanings of experiences of undergraduate nursing students on clinical placement; especially those students undertaking acute clinical placement for the first time.

The aims of this research were to:

* explore and describe the experiences of second year undergraduate nursing students undertaking their first acute clinical placement and how such experiences influenced their journey as students and their future career in nursing, and

* attach meaning to these experiences and identify both positive and negative experiences of clinical placement.

This paper explores and describes the experiences of second year undergraduate nursing students who undertook their first acute clinical placement. The research findings may have implications for the university, the clinical facility and the students participating in the research study. These implications may raise issues concerning why some students discontinue study, or choices students make regarding where they practice as future registered nurses.

BACKGROUND - CLINICAL IS THE PINNACLE1

Australia has a shortage of nursing workforce placing pressure on health care professionals and the health care system in which they currently practice. In 2001 8,500 undergraduates began their degrees, however by 2004, only 5,702 graduate nurses entered the workforce; thus a shortfall had already been created as completion rates were signifi- cantly less than commencing numbers (Beadnell, 2006). The Australian Health Workforce Advisory Committee (AHWAC) (2004) report, estimated that to meet demands of nursing workforce, there needed to be at least 10,182 graduate nurses in 2006 (Beadnell, 2006). There are several reasons postulated for significant loses in undergraduate nursing students. One reason proposed here is the impact clinical placement experiences have on students during their undergraduate education.

It is this clinical experience, together with student expectations, beliefs of nursing as a profession and relationships with preceptors that can become pivotal in the undergraduate nurse's journey. The literature suggests that exploration of undergraduate nursing students' experiences of clinical placements has been the topic for nurse researchers for at least a decade (Beadnell, 2006; Cahill, 1996). Some researchers have provided meaning for this phenomenon, where others have implemented strategies to assist in providing a positive clinical experience. Some contemporary findings appear to indicate that undergraduate nursing students worldwide continue to have similar clinical experiences (Beadnell, 2006; Cope, Cuthbertson, & Stoddart, 2000; Randle, 2001)

Inclusiveness and acceptance

Cahill (1996) indicated that students place signifi- cant emphasis on the attitudes of trained nurses towards them as students. Students identified characteristics such as a consistent approach, a genuine nature, and respect, as qualities of positive role models, with such qualities determining the degree of success experienced on clinical placement. Having time for students, listening to them and valuing their opinions were important qualities in the nurturing of positive relationships between students and their preceptors (Cahill, 1996). Clinical placements not only provide a technical learning environment but also a social context to learning which facilitates being accepted into a nursing culture.

According to Cope et al. (2000) acceptance can be achieved on two levels, socially and professionally; social acceptance may be offered to any student at any time but, professional acceptance may only be offered when clinical competence is displayed. …

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