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J Clin Nurs. 2009 Nov;18(22):3136-45. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2702.2008.02691.x. Epub 2009 Jun 17.

Learning strategies of public health nursing students: conquering operational space.

Author information

1
Faculty of Health and Social Sciences, Bergen University College, Møllendalsveien 6, Bergen, Norway. ehj@hib.no

Abstract

AIM:

To develop understanding of how public health nursing students learn in clinical practice and explore the main concern for the students and how they acted to resolve this main concern.

BACKGROUND:

How professionals perform their work directly affects individuals, but knowledge is lacking in understanding how learning is connected to clinical practice in public health nursing and in other professions.

DESIGN:

Grounded theory.

METHOD:

Grounded theory was used in gathering and analysing data from 55 interviews and 108 weekly reports. The participants were 21 registered nurses who were public health nursing students.

RESULTS:

The grounded theory of conquering operational space explains how the students work to resolve their main concern. A social process with three identified phases, positioning, involving and integrating, was generated from analysing the data. Their subcategories and dimensions are related to the student role, relations with a supervisor, student activity and the consequences of each phase. Public health nursing students had to work towards gaining independence, often working against 'the system' and managing the tension by taking a risk. Many of them lost, changed and expanded their professional identity during practical placements.

CONCLUSION:

Public health nursing students' learning processes in clinical training are complex and dynamic and the theory of 'Conquering operational space' can assist supervisors in further developing their role in relation to guiding students in practice. Relationships are one key to opening or closing access to situations of learning and directly affect the students' achievement of mastering.

RELEVANCE TO CLINICAL PRACTICE:

The findings are pertinent to supervisors and educators as they prepare students for practice. Good relationships are elementary and supervisors can support students in conquering the field by letting students obtain operational space and gain independence. This may create a dialectical process that drives learning forward.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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