Student Contributions to Clinical Agencies: A Comparison of Adult Health and Psychiatric Staff Nurses' Perceptions

By Grindel, Cecelia Gatson; Bateman, Anne L. et al. | Nursing and Health Care Perspectives, July 2001 | Go to article overview

Student Contributions to Clinical Agencies: A Comparison of Adult Health and Psychiatric Staff Nurses' Perceptions


Grindel, Cecelia Gatson, Bateman, Anne L., Patsdaughter, Carol A., Babington, Lynn M., Medici, Geraldine, Nursing and Health Care Perspectives


Abstract Clinical rotations in acute medical and psychiatric inpatient facilities are an essential component of the education for undergraduate nursing students. The benefits students receive from these clinical experiences have been documented, but no data have been reported regarding the advantages that students may bring to agencies. This exploratory study, which used a mail-back survey, asked adult health/medical-surgical nurses and mental health/psychiatric nurses in acute care units about the effects undergraduate nursing students had on staff time, staff development, quality of care, staff's personal satisfaction, and unit standards and practices during their clinical rotations. Results indicated that students contribute to the personal and professional satisfaction of the staff by offering opportunities for mentoring and reciprocal learning and allowing nurses to participate in students' professional development. Students also contribute to patient care.

CLINICAL PLACEMENTS FOR NURSING STUDENTS IN INPATIENT SETTINGS ARE BECOMING INCREASINGLY LIMITED. Shortages in nurse staffing, increased patient-to-nurse ratios, and high patient acuity levels limit the availability of staff to support nursing students during their clinical rotations. Because inpatient clinical experiences are an essential component of the education of nursing students, colleges and universities are in competition to secure affiliations with acute care facilities.

Historically, the assumption has been that allowing students to have clinical rotations in inpatient settings was a service that the agency provided to the college or university. The question arises as to whether students are an asset or a liability to the clinical agencies. The purpose of this study was to explore the benefits and limitations of having undergraduate nursing students on acute care units during their clinical rotations for adult health/medical-surgical (AHMS) and mental health/psychiatric (MHP) care. Specifically, the study compared the perceptions of AHMS and MHP staff nurses regarding the contributions made by nursing students during clinical rotations.

Background Reports about the contributions that nursing students make to the health care system and/or to nursing knowledge are limited. The contributions of graduate students to nursing knowledge through publication (1), in women's health (2), and in adult education (3) have been documented. Although Patton and Cook (4) have called for creative alliances between nursing service and education in times of economic constraint, a review of the literature revealed no published studies about undergraduate or graduate students' contributions to clinical agencies.

In a survey of staff nurses and nurse managers, O'Mara and Welton (5) found that staff preceptors for senior students provided multiple benefits to the students. However, it was noted that this process was labor intensive for the staff nurses, and ongoing feedback between faculty and preceptors was critical to the effectiveness of the educational model. Their study did not address the benefits that the staff preceptor or the agency received from the experience.

Studies have described undergraduate nursing students' perceptions of acute care AHMS and MHP clinical experiences and their benefits and limitations (6-10). However, these studies were primarily interested in the educational perspective. The contributions of undergraduate students to clinical agencies have not been documented.

Method Data for this exploratory descriptive study were collected in two larger studies. In each study, stamped, self-addressed surveys regarding the effects undergraduate nursing students have on staff time, staff development, quality of care, staff's personal satisfaction, and unit standards and practices were distributed to staff nurses, clinical nurse specialists, and nurse managers working on inpatient AHMS and MHP units.

Instrument The 54-item survey, Nursing Students' Contributions to Clinical Agencies (NSCCA), was developed by the investigators from data obtained during interviews with nine AHMS staff nurses, six unit managers, and three nursing administrators who were responsible for student placement. …

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