Students’ experiences of implementing clinical skills in the real world of practice

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Aims and objectives

To examine the factors that impact on students' implementation of clinical skills in the practice setting. This was a part of a larger exploration into the role of the Clinical Skills Laboratory in preparing student nurses for clinical practice.


It is already known that students can experience reality shock on clinical placement and that staff support is crucial for their adaptation to the environment. This process is similar to socialisation theory whereby the newcomer adapts to the workplace.


A multiple case study design (n = 5) was used.


Data were collected using semi-structured interviews (n = 43) and non-participant observation of students implementing skills in clinical practice.


Findings revealed the factors that could facilitate students' implementation of clinical skills were as follows: provision of learning opportunities, staff support and supervision, and students' confidence. Factors that hindered students were reality shock, ‘the gap’ in how skills were taught in the higher education institutions and the clinical setting, and missed learning opportunities. Support from peers in the clinical area and having previous experience of working as a health care assistant, or similar, were the factors that could either positively or negatively impact on students.


Students need to be adequately prepared for the real-life clinical environment. Understanding, through socialisation theory, how students adapt to the workplace can facilitate this process. Facilitating students' learning includes supporting them, developing their confidence and ensuring that they have prior exposure to undertaking clinical skills.

Relevance to practice

Staff working with students in clinical practice can help facilitate students’ learning and implementing of clinical skills through an understanding of how students adapt and ‘fit in’ to their working environment.

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