Students may be 'buddied' with registered nurses during their clinical experience since the designated clinical facilitator cannot be available for each student at all times. Little is known about the way registered nurses understand this informal role.
The rationale for this study was to gain an insight of the variation of understanding registered nurses have of their role with students, and explored the qualitatively different ways registered nurses perceive their role with students on clinical experience and the implications of this understanding for student learning.
A phenomenographic approach was used to identify the variation of understanding and meaning of the role of the registered nurse with students on clinical practice from the perspective of the registered nurse. Phenomenography is a field of descriptive research concerned with the variation in ways people experience and understand similar phenomena.
A purposive sample of 30 registered nurses from 15 public and private hospitals in central and south eastern Queensland, Australia.
Individual semi-structured interviews from a final sample of 28 interviews were analysed to identify Categories of Description.
Eight variations of understanding registered nurses have of their informal role with students were identified. The registered nurses' understanding varies from a focus that is 'student-centred', to 'completion of workload-centred', to 'registered nurse control', to a preference for no contact with students. As a consequence some students may have positive learning experiences while others will have limited learning opportunities.
The research highlights the varied ways registered nurses understand their role with students that may promote or impede the quality of student learning and development to meet professional competency standards. Formal recognition of the complexity of the registered nurse role by health care agencies and tertiary education providers is essential to ensure registered nurses have adequate preparation for their role with students.