Journal of Professional Nursing

The relationship between student nurse and nurse clinician: Impact on student learning

Sharon Vallant, RN, BHSC (Nursing), MA (Nursing), Senior Nurse Lecturer, School of Nursing, AUT University, Auckland
Stephen Neville, RN, PhD, FCNA(NZ), Senior Lecturer, School of Health Sciences - Auckland, Massey University

Reference:  Vallant, S., & Neville, S. (2006). The relationship between student nurse and nurse clinician: Impact on student learning. Nursing Praxis in New Zealand, 22(3), 23-33. 


Student nurse learning within a clinical environment is an essential component of Bachelor of Nursing curricula in New Zealand. During clinical experiences, student nurses rely on nurse clinicians for day-to-day facilitation of their learning. The purpose of this descriptive interpretive study was to explore relationships between student nurses and nurse clinicians. Eleven student nurses at the end of a three year Bachelor of Nursing programme in one institution participated in focus group interviews. Data gathered from the three focus groups were analysed using an inductive approach. Five categories, namely ‘being invisible in the relationship’, ‘not stepping on toes’, ‘lost opportunities for learning’, ‘nurturance’ and ‘reciprocity’ emerged from data analysis. These are presented with appropriate quotes to demonstrate the essence of participant experiences. Findings indicated that when students experienced relationships with clinicians as not being positive, this inhibited learning. Conversely, when students saw the clinician as participating actively and positively in the student/clinician relationship then student learning was enhanced. This evidence forms the basis for recommending further complementary research into the clinician’s attitudes and perceptions related to their teaching role.

Preceptorship, clinical learning, nursing practice, nursing education

Nursing has always emphasised the importance of learning in the clinical environment (Chan, 2002; Dunn & Hansford, 1997; Hart & Rotem, 1994; Lo, 2002; McAllister, Lincoln, McLeod, & Maloney, 1997). In New Zealand students learning to be nurses spend up to half their Bachelor of Nursing course in clinical learning situations. A large proportion of these experiences are spent in the practice setting where the nurse clinician has remained the constant ‘supervisor’ of student nurse learning. Student nurses are required to work under the supervision of a registered nurse and the reality of both the practice setting and nursing education today means nurse lecturers increasingly rely on the nurse clinician to facilitate and support student learning. Given the central role of the nurse clinician in student nurse learning it seemed important to understand the relationship between the two parties. This study, therefore, focused on the relationship between the nurse clinician and student nurse while in the practice setting.

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