Problem-based learning (PBL) continues to be a feature of many nursing programmes and has been the subject of a number of empirical studies. This study explored the experience of PBL of a group of registered nurses undertaking a 1 year children's nursing programme. Focus group interviews at the end of the programme and 6 months post-qualification captured the student's perceptions of how they experienced learning to be a children's nurse on this type of programme and subsequently the impact it had had on them on their return to practice.
Themes identified by the focus groups centred on the transitions students have to make to this type of learning and the need to let go of previous education expectations. Adapting to the PBL process led to a range of strategies being employed by the group to cope with the new demand, resulting in largely negative perceptions of PBL on programme completion. The second focus group allowed the group time to reflect on their experience and the impact of it on their role and presented a positive balanced view of their experience. This included increased confidence, assertiveness, being more questioning of practice and likely to search for and use evidence to underpin practice than before this PBL programme.
This research demonstrates the need to provide more initial preparation at the start of programmes to support the transition to PBL and provide ongoing mechanisms for listening and responding to student concerns about the PBL process. For those considering PBL in the future, blended approaches rather than curricula wholly delivered by PBL may be more suited to shorter programmes of study. However, the overall message from this research indicates that although the students experienced difficulties in the process, the outcome did in fact meet their needs in the longer term.