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‘My mentor didn't speak to me for the first four weeks’: Perceived unfairness experienced by nursing students in clinical practice settings

Jack, Kirsten and Hamshire, C and Harris, W and Langan, A and Barrett, N and Wibberley, Christopher (2018) ‘My mentor didn't speak to me for the first four weeks’: Perceived unfairness experienced by nursing students in clinical practice settings. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 27 (5-6). pp. 929-938. ISSN 0962-1067

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Abstract

Aims and Objectives To explore the perceived unfairness experienced by student nurses during their undergraduate clinical placements. Background It is important that student nurses feel supported by practice staff during their clinical placement education experiences. However, it has been reported that learners can feel ignored, unsupported and bullied by others in the clinical environment and this has a detrimental effect on their learning. It is important to understand the student nurse perspective and explore ways in which their feelings of belongingness might be enhanced in the clinical area. Design A descriptive narrative approach was utilised to explore the qualitative data generated by the survey and interviews. Limited closed-question survey data were acquired to explore a selection of quantified survey responses about placements and mentorship. Methods A survey was conducted with 1425 student nurses from adult and mental health degree nursing pathways, across 9 institutions in the North West of England, UK. Unstructured interviews were undertaken with 22 student nurses from across these 9 institutions. The data generated from both methods (free text survey responses and interview) were thematically analysed. Results There were times when student nurses felt that they had been treated unfairly by various members of the health care team during their clinical placements. Unfairness was related to being ignored and unsupported or being used as an ‘extra pair of hands’ and having their supernumerary status ignored. Student nurses want to have feelings of belongingness in the clinical area and value enthusiasm for teaching from mentors. Certain positive mentor qualities were identified through the data in this study. These have been used to inform a tiered model of mentorship, to inform future thinking about student nurse education. Conclusion Student nurses can feel like they are being treated unfairly in the clinical area in numerous ways. Identifying ways in which mentorship practice can be developed to adequately support education is important. This can lead to satisfaction and development on both sides of the student/educator relationship. Relevance to Practice Exploring student nurse perceptions of their learning is important when attempting to enhance educational practice in the clinical setting.

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