Conceptions of clinical learning among stakeholders involved in undergraduate nursing education: a phenomenographic study

Malou Stoffels*, Stephanie M. E. van der Burgt, Terese Stenfors, Hester E. M. Daelmans, Saskia M. Peerdeman, Rashmi A. Kusurkar

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: To prepare nursing students to become critical, autonomous members of the workforce, an agreement among stakeholders on how this can be achieved in the clinical setting is needed. However, a critical discussion of the clinical learning process in relation to actual and desirable outcomes is lacking in the nursing education literature. This study aimed to map conceptions of the desired process and outcomes of clinical learning among stakeholders involved in undergraduate clinical nursing education. Methods: Twenty-five semi-structured interviews about their understanding of clinical learning were conducted with nursing students, supervisors, clinical educators and higher education institute professionals involved in clinical nursing education in a Dutch academic medical center. Data were analyzed using a phenomenographic approach. Results: Four conceptions were identified: clinical learning as a process to 1) meet curricular demands, 2) learn to deliberately deliver patient care, 3) learn to deliver patient care within the larger (healthcare) context, and 4) become a continuously developing professional. Conceptions 3 and 4 represented a broader, more inclusive perspective on clinical learning than conception 1 and 2. Conceptions were distinguished by five dimensions: role of guidelines from the school; learning opportunities, focus of supervisor; focus of reflection; desirable outcomes of clinical learning. Conclusions: Those directly involved in clinical learning in nursing may have qualitatively different understandings of its desired nature and outcomes. Two patterns across conceptions could be discerned: a) a shift in focus from learning as following standards, to following an individualized learning trajectory and b) a shift in focus from increasing patient load, to understanding oneself and the patient within the healthcare context. To prepare nursing students for the future workforce, a flexible, social form of self-regulated learning is warranted, as well as an understanding of one’s own role within the healthcare system and a critical attitude towards healthcare. Schools and hospitals should collaborate to integrate these values in the curriculum. The current study adds different ways of applying self-regulated learning as a relevant dimension in understanding clinical learning to the literature. Through the phenomenographic approach we identified conceptions that can be a basis for training and policy development.
Original languageEnglish
Article number520
JournalBMC Medical Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2021

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