Clinical placements are designed to give students the chance to integrate their theoretical knowledge with practice. They should build students’ confidence, knowledge and professional identity as well as help consolidate or develop clinical skills. However, nursing students are more likely than any other health profession student to witness or be asked to participate in situations that breach patient dignity or risk patient safety. This is where nursing mentors and/or preceptors can make the biggest difference.
Students are well aware that learning opportunities and the quality of their placement experience can be heavily influenced by their preceptor. Hence students can be reluctant to jeopardise this relationship by questioning practices they witness. However, if the preceptor addresses the power imbalance and treats their students as equals, students can be comfortable and secure enough to challenge poor practices.
Students closely observe how their preceptor RNs behave, and often model their own behaviour on that of their mentor. If their mentor does not challenge or report poor practice of other RNs, students are likely to replicate this behaviour, both during their placement and in their future practice as RNs.
Therefore, it is essential preceptors not only demonstrate evidence-based practice, but also how to effectively advocate for patients and respectfully question practices of others when required. We need to provide positive role-models for students to emulate. After all, the students of today are our colleagues of tomorrow.
Bickhoff, L., Sinclair, P. M., & Levett-Jones, T. (2015). Moral courage in undergraduate nursing students: A literature review. Collegian. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.colegn.2015.08.002