Adult Field Undergraduate Perceptions of Higher Education Involvement With Their Practice Placement Learning

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Gillian Taylor, BSc, DN
School of Health and Social Care, Edinburgh Napier University, Edinburgh, United Kingdom


The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological study was to explore the Higher Education Institution (HEI) support adult field undergraduate nurses value whilst learning on practice placement during a three year BN Programme delivered at a Scottish University.


A small purposive sample (n=6) of final year adult field undergraduate nursing students were recruited. The purposiveness of the sampling technique was necessary to ensure that rich, relevant and current data was collected.


Male = 0

Female = 6

Age in Years

Range = 20-49

Mean = 31

Previous Undergraduate Study

Yes = 2

No = 4


In an attempt to improve validity of research findings any potential research participants who had been known to the researcher during their programme of study were excluded from participation.

The students were recruited by seeking voluntary responses to posters displayed around the university campus and a verbal presentation about the proposed study, delivered by the researcher, at a final placement learning Preparation for Practice lecture. However, difficulty recruiting research participants meant that the researcher also had to employ a form of convenience sampling with participants identifying fellow students who may consent to participate in the study. Convenience sampling continued to assure compatibility with the underlying phenomenological research methodology.

Unfortunately,no male research participants volunteered to participate in the study.

Individual, face to face voice recorded semi-structured interviews were conducted, lasting about one hour. The six interviews were conducted over a period of two months, between May 2016 and July 2016.

Face to face semi-structured interview schedules were chosen to allow for focus within the research topic whilst permitting the use of open questions with the ability to clarify specific answers and explore areas of interest more extensively.

Digital recording and individual transcription by the researcher was labour intensive but this practice enhanced and intensified the qualitative phenomenological methodology by allowing the researcher to become increasingly familiar with the data


The results suggest that current models of HEI support are too reactive. This study proposes that students are reluctant to be the initiators of HEI support within the placement area and can view this as having potential negative connotations for themselves or future students.

Students view a more proactive approach to HEI support within placement learning as both personalised and supportive.

Students perceive their HEI as having overall responsibility for their learning, even within practice placement. However, adult field undergraduates are unclear about HEI academic role function within practice placement areas.

Adult field undergraduate nurses seek support from the wider clinical team and their peers rather than contacting their HEI for academic and practice placement support.

However, adult field undergraduate nurses value HEI support and re-assurance that their placement learning opportunities are valid and appropriate.


Initiation of HEI Support:

It is evident from this small study that whilst students recognise learning contexts which are far from ideal for a variety of reasons they may choose not to initiate HEI support to resolve these issues and that this can have a negative impact for their learning.

Where students choose to initiate support for personal issues they prefer to approach their PDT or an impartial member of HEI staff.

Roles and Responsibilities:

There appears to be variance in how the clinical and academic roles responsible for adult field undergraduate learning, teaching and assessment within practice placement are performed.

There may be situations where targeted proactive HEI support and re-assurance with placement learning are required dependent upon age, previous experience and position within the programme.

HEI and professional consideration needs to be given to the selection process for clinical mentors in terms of personal attributes and characteristics as well as current clinical role and potential competing demands.

Timing and Relevance:

Adult field undergraduates value academic Preparation for Practice lectures but placement areas are sometimes ill-informed and ill-prepared to organise and provide suitable educational opportunities aligned with academic learning.

Ownership for Learning:

All professionals involved with placement learning need to remain cognisant of the importance of the societal and contextual influences for reflexive learning.

Students appreciate their personal responsibility for effective learning but their HEI peers are also influential from an educational and supportive perspective.

Therefore, this small qualitative phenomenological study would propose further research in to targeted proactive models of HEI support for adult field undergraduate nurses during placement learning and further consideration of the who, when, what, where and how of that support.

Further research is also required to assess models of partnership learning and consider how best to allocate students to placement areas thereby maximising different models of Peer Assisted Learning and constructive alignment within the entire academic and clinical curriculum.

The further development and use of technology to enhance communities of learning and prevent feelings of isolation within placement also needs further investigation.

Responsibility for high quality placement learning needs to be a joint relationship between HEIs and service providers but effective communication between both partners requires to be enhanced. This study argues for clarity of role function for all professionals involved. Crucially, as key stakeholders and future registered practitioners, undergraduate adult field nurses need to be consulted and their views utilised to inform future models of HEI support with placement learning.

The findings from this small qualitative phenomenological research study, although not generalizable due to sample size and research methodology, could be considered transferable in terms of their depth, content and the research integrity of the study. The ultimate usefulness of this study lies in the robustness of its execution and resultant trustworthiness of the results.