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Contemp Nurse. 2007 Apr;24(2):162-74.

Belongingness: a montage of nursing students' stories of their clinical placement experiences.

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School of Nursing & Midwifery, The University of Newcastle, Callaghan NSW, Australia, and Honorary Research Associate, The University of Southampton, Southampton, United Kingdom.


The psychological and social sciences literature is replete with assertions that human beings are fundamentally and pervasively motivated by the need to belong. This paper reports on some of the findings from the qualitative phase of a mixed-method, multi-site study that explored nursing students' experience of belongingness while on clinical placements. Students from Australia and the United Kingdom were interviewed to identify factors that impact upon and are consequences of belongingness. A montage of participants' stories is used to illustrate some of the key features of clinical workplaces that are conducive to the development of belongingness. Contextual factors and interpersonal dynamics were seen to have a significant bearing on students' experiences. Clinical leaders/managers who were welcoming, accepting and supportive, and nursing staff who were inclusive and encouraging, facilitated students' perception of being valued and respected as members of the nursing team. Additionally, the provision of consistent, quality mentorship was identified as important to students' feelings of connectedness and fit. The experience of belongingness, in turn, enhanced students' potential for learning and influenced their future career decisions. Alternatively, alienation resulted from unreceptive and unwelcoming clinical environments and from the dissonance created when students' personal and professional values did not articulate with those evident in practice environments. Consequently, distress, detachment and disengagement occurred and students' capacity and motivation for learning was negatively impacted.

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