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Nurse Educ Pract. 2012 Nov;12(6):346-51. doi: 10.1016/j.nepr.2012.04.006. Epub 2012 May 27.

Preceptors' views of assessing nursing students using a competency based approach.

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Department of Nursing and Midwifery, University of Limerick, Ireland.


The purpose of this study was to evaluate clinical competence assessment in BSc nursing registration education programmes. This research was undertaken in two phases and incorporated both quantitative and qualitative methodologies. In the first phase, two focus groups were conducted with preceptors working in general, mental health and intellectual disability nursing (n=16). In the second phase, a survey was undertaken with preceptors (n=837) in these disciplines. This paper reports on the focus group findings of preceptors' views and experiences of assessing undergraduate nursing degree students using a competency based approach. A semi-structured interview guide was used to focus the discussions. Three higher order categories that emerged included: attitudes to competencies, being a preceptor and competencies in practice. Competing demands in the clinical environment impacted on preceptors' experiences of the assessment process. Difficulties such as the wording of competency documentation and incorporation of skills into the assessment were articulated. The importance of a regional and national review of competency assessment systems to find a common language for student assessment as well as promoting greater student skill development within competency frameworks is recommended. These findings; highlight the importance of making assessments more workable within the current environment and aim to inform future development of competence assessment.

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