Research placements: are they a suitable alternative for student nurses?
COVID-19 has affected those undertaking courses in higher education, especially programmes in health care with clinical placements. Many student nurses were unable to undertake their planned clinical placements and had to adjust to self-directed learning and an increase in simulated learning. As a suitable alternative to clinical placements, a research placement for two second-year BSc adult nursing students was trialled, and this article presents an account from one placement. The academic team devised specific questions for students to consider for their research electives and provided a template for their written work with the aim of writing up a weekly report to reflect their learning. In particular, the students had to identify how their learning related to the UK Nursing and Midwifery Council code of conduct. The research placement was successful and shows great potential, offering students tangible opportunities to seek out the evidence for themselves and use it to inform their clinical practice.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound effect on all aspects of society and presented previously unencountered difficulties for those in higher education and, in particular, those enrolled in clinically based degrees including nursing. Universities had to move swiftly from face-to-face teaching to online learning as countries went into lockdown to reduce transmission of SARS-Cov-2 (Seah et al, 2021). Across the globe, many student nurses were unable to undertake their planned clinical placements and had to adjust to self-directed learning and an increase in simulated learning. Several papers have highlighted the issues facing student nurses, which impacted not only their learning opportunities but also their psychological wellbeing (Michel et al, 2021; Ulenaers et al, 2021). One qualitative study from Belgium reported nursing students' practical worries relating to fewer learning opportunities as well as many requiring greater psychosocial support and the need for establishing regular contact with their clinical placement supervisor (Ulenaers et al, 2021). These findings were replicated in a survey of 540 student nurses across the USA who expressed the need for greater in-person clinical placements and strong academic and clinical partnerships (Michel et al, 2021).
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