Nursing students’ learning experiences in clinical placements or simulation–A qualitative study

Kirsten Nielsen, Annelise Norlyk, Jette Henriksen


This paper reports on a qualitative study whose aim was to investigate nursing students' learning experiences in two arenas. It is common practice all first-year nursing students to practise in a skills lab. In this study, students practised in either clinical settings or a skills lab. In the design, a phenomenological-hermeneutic approach was used. The setting was Course 2, a ten-week course including either two weeks on clinical placements or two weeks in a skills lab. The participants were six first-year students. Data were generated by participant observations and interviews and were interpreted according to Ricoeur’s theory of interpretation. The findings indicated that students learned nursing skills in both arenas. However, on clinical placements, students and preceptors began nursing the patients after 20 minutes and students subsequently reflected on practice. In the skills lab, preceptors guided the students for up to an hour before they were ready to begin performing nursing. Students with previous nursing experience and activist learning style preferred to learn on clinical placements. Students with other learning styles – even one student with previous nursing experience – seemed to prefer learning in the lab, where they felt safe, as there was no risk of harm to patients. The conclusion was that, rather than all first-year students practising in the lab, it could be valuable to consider the students’ prior experience and preferred learning style in discussions of where to begin the learning trajectory in the nursing programme.

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Journal of Nursing Education and Practice

ISSN 1925-4040 (Print)   ISSN 1925-4059 (Online)

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