Journal of Professional Nursing

Clinical Practice/Education Exchange: Bridging the Theory-Practice Gap  

Robyn Brasell-Brian, RGON, RM, ADN, BHlthSc, Nurse Lecturer, School of Nursing, Faculty of Health Sciences, Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology, Christchurch
Esther Vallance, RCpN, BN, Nurse Lecturer, School of Nursing, Faculty of Health and Sciences, Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology, Christchurch

Reference:  Brasell-Brian, R., & Vallance, E. (2002). Clinical practice/education exchange: Bridging the theory-practice gap. Nursing Praxis in New Zealand, 18(1), 17-26. 


Nursing education is directed toward development of nursing practitioners competent to nurse effectively in the reality of our present society. A major challenge to the nursing profession is to find ways of merging theory and practice in the delivery of nursing education and patient care. One option for achieving this goal is for nurse educators to spend time in clinical practice updating their clinical skills and re-experiencing the realities of practice. Joint appointments with practice, intermittent periods of clinical update in practice and work role exchanges have all been utilized by the profession. However clinical practice/education exchange (CPEE) involving two people - one in clinical practice and the other in education - who exchange jobs for a fixed period of time is a relatively new concept. Central to a CPEE is the aim of enhancing student learning and facilitating meaningful links between theory and practice for them. Hence the exchange occurs between the education institute and the service area where students are placed. This article positions the CPEE within nursing literature and presents narrative accounts from a nurse educator and clinician who exchanged jobs for one year.   

Theory-practice gap, nursing education, clinical practice, exchange  

The central focus of this article is a clinical practice/education exchange (CPEE) where a nurse educator and clinician exchanged work role positions for one year. The stimulation to embark on a CPEE was, for the nurse educator, a desire to revitalise her classroom teaching and to make it more relevant to practice. For the clinician, it was to further develop skills to facilitate student learning in the practice area. The context where the nurse educator and clinician met was an acute medical ward in which student nurses engaged in clinical practice. Both worked alongside these nursing students, one as the ‘clinical tutor’ the other as the ‘nurse buddy’. From the authors’ perspective, ‘stepping’ into each other’s role promoted collaboration, facilitated a renewed understanding of the practice area and brought the realities of clinical practice into the classroom, hence narrowing the theory-practice gap. Continued

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