Perceptions of the unregistered healthcare worker's role in pre-registration student nurses' clinical training

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To explore the unregistered healthcare worker's role and influence on student nurses' clinical learning experience.


Across the developed world, the role of the unregistered worker is exceeding its traditional boundaries. Evidence suggests that this includes the day-to-day mentoring of pre-registration student nurses. However, no research to date has explored reasons as to why this is occurring, what types of tasks are taught, and the consequence of this.


A sequential exploratory mixed method research design was adopted.


Reporting on the final qualitative phase of a mixed method sequential research study, semi-structured interviews were undertaken with 59 unregistered healthcare workers across four hospitals in Northern Ireland. Transcriptions were analysed using a content analysis approach; all data were collected in 2010.


Findings show the diversity of the unregistered healthcare workers' roles and confirm that they play a major part in the education of student nurses with regards to basic, clinical, and non-clinical tasks, with and without the approval of registered staff. However, their involvement did not reflect their levels of expertise as evidenced by certified training. Their participation was justified based on mentor unavailability, their closeness to the student and the patient. While some did raise concerns, they recommended that these workers be formally involved in nurse education.


Mechanisms of workforce planning need to pay particular attention to the expanding role of unregistered healthcare workers as ‘role drift’ has the potential to alter patterns of work and affect current educational approaches impacting on the acquisition of clinical skills. Further research is recommended in this domain.

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