The role of the practice educator in supporting nursing and midwifery students' clinical practice learning: An appreciative inquiry

Elaine Maxwell, Sharon Black, Lesley Baillie


High quality, supportive practice learning experiences are crucial for ensuring that student nurses and midwives develop into competent practitioners who are fit for practice. The practice educator role is one model of practice learning support but the role is relatively new and has been little investigated. This paper reports on an appreciative inquiry that explored the current practice educator role at one university in England, with the aim of reaching a consensus for how the role could be enhanced. The first phase involved in-depth interviews with 18 participants: practice educators (n = 10); student nurse representatives (n = 5) and practice based education leads (n = 3). The interviews were analysed thematically. Three themes related to social processes involved in the role: being a bridge, being there, and social identity. The other themes described contributions to the practice learning environment: safeguarding, support, critical thinking. The second phase used a modified Delphi technique. Participants ranked trigger statements, related to the themes, in order of importance. Two consensus workshops were held where the statements were reviewed by practice educators, students and learning environment leads, following which principles and practices of the practice educator role were agreed. In conclusion, the strength of the practice educator role is that it bridges the worlds of university and practice. This bridging resulted from social processes that required a sustained presence in practice to engage in the reality of everyday practice and gain the shared social identity of a practitioner.

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Journal of Nursing Education and Practice

ISSN 1925-4040 (Print)   ISSN 1925-4059 (Online)

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