Methods: One hundred senior baccalaueate nursing students (4 male; 96 female) participated in a semester long elective course over a period of 5 years. The SCL completed ten self-directed leadership modules and implemented the leadership concepts through a sixteen week leadership practicum in a clinical setting. The practicum consisted of assisting a faculty member teaching a sophomore or junior level undergraduate clinical group. A pretest posttest design was utilized to evaluate the change in perceived leadership abilities. The SCL completed a leadership performance competence profile questionnaire and an inventory of leadership characteristics at the beginning and completion of the semester. In addition, the SCL’s performance was evaluated by both the faculty member and the junior students at midterm and at the end of the semester.
Results: The leadership characteristics were categorized into 6 subscales: communication, association, sanction, delegation, initiation, and legitimacy. Both pretest and posttest measures showed good reliability (Cronbach’s alpha = 0.78 for pretest and 0.84 for posttest). A repeated measures analysis of covariance controlling for gender and management experience revealed that the students’ perception of their leadership skill significantly improved overall (F=27.71; p<.0001) and in all six subscales. A large majority (98%) of the SCLs received positive performance evaluations from both their faculty mentor and junior students. A significant number of SCLs expressed an interest in the faculty role (p<.05) after the leadership practicum experience.
Conclusion: Perceived leadership skills improved after the completion of the senior clinical leader experience. Faculty members role modeled both the educator role and leadership skills. Clinical leaders reported increased self-confidence and served as role models for the junior students. With the senior clinical leaders, faculty were able to assign more complex patients and the SCL functioned as an additional set of “eyes” and “ears” for the faculty member. This educational program can be implemented in a variety of academic and clinical settings.