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Promoting community engagement in a pre-registration nursing programme: a qualitative study of student experiences

11 November 2021
Volume 30 · Issue 20



To offer child health student nurses a broader learning experience in practice with an autonomous choice of a volunteer placement area. To reflect the changing nature of health care and the move of care closer to home in the placement experience. To evaluate participants' experiences.


This study used descriptive and interpretative methods of qualitative data collection. This successive cross-sectional data collection ran from 2017 to 2020. All data were thematically analysed using Braun and Clarke's model.


Data collection strategies included two focus groups (n=14) and written reflections (n=19).


Students identified their increased confidence, development as a professional, wider learning and community engagement. They also appreciated the relief from formal assessment of practice and the chance to focus on the experience.


Students positively evaluated this experience, reporting a wider understanding of health and wellbeing in the community. Consideration needs to be given to risk assessments in the areas students undertake the placements and the embedding of the experience into the overall curriculum.

The changing landscape of pre-registration nursing, both in relation to increasing student numbers and the move towards care closer to home (NHS England, 2017; NHS England/NHS Improvement, 2019), as well as community management, require student nurse placements that offer a greater opportunity to develop understanding of care outside the hospital setting. This is reflected in the academic curriculum within the Future Nurse framework (Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), 2018a), in particular regarding population health and preventing ill health (Department of Health and Social Care, 2018); and as set out in the NHS Long Term Plan (NHS England/NHS Improvement, 2019).

A placement innovation aimed to address the need for greater community engagement, offering the students an opportunity to explore areas of third-sector health and social care, in order to develop their understanding of the nurse's role outside of statutory services. The wider remit allowed students to pursue particular interests and look more broadly at population- or family-based health. Students had the opportunity to develop their autonomy and communication skills outside of the traditional student nurse experience, while maintaining the required professionalism of a student nurse (NMC, 2018b). These placements were different to traditional placements as there was a greater focus on non-statutory or third-sector community organisations—and there were not necessarily nurses present.

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