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Using research to improve a ward-based learning environment

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VOL: 98, ISSUE: 47, PAGE NO: 36

Theresa Halstead is ward manager, day surgery ward, St Luke's Hospital, Bradford Hospitals NHS Trust and part-time degree student at the University of Bradford

Theresa Halstead is ward manager, day surgery ward, St Luke's Hospital, Bradford Hospitals NHS Trust and part-time degree student at the University of Bradford

As sister of a busy day case surgical ward, I read the above article with much interest. Nursing students are placed on the ward as part of a rotation that also incorporates preadmission assessment clinic, and short-stay surgery. The students are all asked to complete an evaluation when they have finished their placement and Morgan's article prompted me to compare the study findings with those of our own student placement evaluations.

Looking back at evaluation forms from the past eight months the majority of both negative and positive comments related to confidence building, the importance of feeling part of the team and feeling useful. I found it quite reassuring that these mirrored the themes in Morgan's study, as it meant that it was not just our placement that caused students to feel this way.

The article, and my consequent re-examination of our evaluations, encouraged me to reflect on how to improve the quality of the placements and how we could address students' common fears and concerns.

The length of the placement is obviously crucial: I was already aware that the length of a placement impacts on overall student satisfaction but the extent of this had not sunk in. Looking back at the forms, I can now see that students who spent three weeks or less in the area did not feel part of the team. In addition, they indicated that they had not had the opportunity to develop clinical skills. In contrast, students whose placements lasted four weeks or more invariably commented on how good it was to feel part of the team and that they had the confidence to develop new skills.

The nature of the ward means there is a rapid turnover of patients and students have the opportunity to observe skills on a number of occasions before practising them. The ward therefore has the potential to provide a high quality learning environment. Since reading this article, I have reflected on the limited value of short placements and will be negotiating with the placement coordinator to try and ensure students stay with us for a minimum of four weeks.

All of the mentors and assessors on the ward have now read the article and action will be taken to ensure that students feel useful and part of the team.

Although Morgan's study focused on students' first clinical placements, we felt it was pertinent to students at any stage of their learning. It reminded us how it feels to be a student and prompted us to scrutinise the learning environment currently provided.

I am also conscious that I already had some of this information available to me in our student evaluation forms. It has reminded me to act upon this in the future and it will be interesting to see if the responses change as a result of the reflection stimulated by this article.

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