Assessing undergraduate nursing students in clinical practice: Do preceptors use assessment strategies?

McCarthy, B. and Murphy, S. (2008) Assessing undergraduate nursing students in clinical practice: Do preceptors use assessment strategies? Nurse Education Today, 28 (3). pp. 301-313. ISSN 02606917 (ISSN)


Health care organisations such as the World Health Organisation(WHO) and An Bord Altranais(ABA, The Irish Nursing Registration Board) demand higher standards of new graduate nurses than heretofore. This is in conjunction with the implementation of degree programmes for undergraduate nurse education. These organisations stipulate that graduates must be well-educated, accountable, and can demonstrate the skills of a safe, caring and competent decision-making practitioner. The Bachelor of Science(BSc) four-year degree programme for undergraduate nurse education was introduced in Ireland in 2002, and is provided in universities and colleges of higher education throughout The Republic of Ireland. During the implementation process, each university and college of higher education developed a range of assessment strategies to clinically assess students. Preceptor nurses were subsequently assigned the responsibility of clinically assessing students, a remit previously undertaken by Clinical Ward/ Unit Nurse Managers. Preceptors are qualified nurses, working in clinical units who are specially prepared to support BSc students during clinical placements. The purpose of this study was to explore to what extent preceptor nurses use the devised assessment strategies to clinically assess BSc students in one university in The Republic of Ireland. Data were collected by using a questionnaire distributed to all known preceptors in General, Psychiatric and Intellectual Disability nursing, during year four of the first cycle of the BSc programme. Findings from this descriptive study revealed that many preceptors were inexperienced, did not fully comprehend the assessment process and were not applying all of the recommended assessment strategies when assessing students in clinical practice. In light of these findings suggestions are made in the context of further research, management and education. © 2007 Elsevier Ltd.

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