Perceptions of Baccalaureate Nursing Students Before and After Placement on a Behavioral Health Unit

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Margaret M. Egan Touw, DNP, MS
Nursing, William Paterson University, PARAMUS, NJ, USA
Susan Reimann Jackson, EdD
Nursing, William Paterson University, Wayne, NJ, USA


The focus of this paper is to determine if the Baccalaureate nursing student has changed their preconceived perceptions of their training in nursing education as well as fears or anxieties for being on a Behavioral Health unit both prior to and after placement. Both inpatient and outpatient behavioral health units provide clinical interventions for mental health or substance use diagnosis in medically staffed psychiatric supervised treatment environments. Information from this research will enhance the future education of the undergraduate in the behavioral health specialty area. The clinical rotation on an acute unit for nursing students may be challenging as well as anxiety provoking. As faculty, the intent is to provide the best clinical experience that is constructive to learning, to reduce negative attitudes or misperceptions that the students may have regarding clients with a mental illness.

The question is how to best efficaciously generate knowledge acquisition of mental and emotional disorders and promote therapeutic communication within the context of a clinical placement for students in a baccalaureate nursing program?

This research study may not specifically be a measurement tool to identify specific teaching strategies but rather lead the pathway towards the enhancing of the clinical education of bachelor degree undergraduate nursing students in behavioral health nursing. The intent is to provide a glimpse of different areas or gaps in student knowledge, as well as changes in perceptions, that once identified, might indicate a necessity to investigate methodologies available for faculty to provide the best teaching practices for active learning.


The main focus as a professor of nursing is to prepare the student nurses for practice in an environment that they might encounter when they enter the profession. The utilization of a framework to organize the development of the program in designing courses and clinical practicum experience becomes paramount in this changing environment of mental health. The concerns of today also may be related to the consequences of insurance changes within the psychiatric illness continuum of care that is provided for patients today. Recent changes within the acute setting require that more patients are discharged to outside services and clinics. The student must be competent not only in the content that is required on the licensing examination but provided the foundation in meeting the quality care outcomes for this mental health population of patients. The reduction of anxiety and stress by implementation of support services, and better communication between faculty and students may increase positive influences of well-being for the baccalaureate nursing students. The focus upon research to provide the best possible evidenced based practice in nursing education for future behavioral health clients is imperative to generate a future of well-prepared professional nurses.


A descriptive, non-experimental study design was used to explore whether and in what ways that psychiatric nursing students in a baccalaureate nursing program have been influenced pre and post rotation in an acute behavioral health unit as well as in outpatient service settings. A comparative survey was designed to explore whether the perceptions of the students had been altered by the immersion within this educational experience