Clinical Teaching in Nursing Practice

Clinical teaching occurs in the process of taking care of patients. It is an interpersonal relationship between clinical students and teachers. Clinical teaching is necessary, in order to equip nurses with the required knowledge in the field of nursing. Personally, I have experience in nursing for seven years now, and I can proclaim that experience is the best teacher. However, this experience must be equipped with prior teaching, for a nurse to be the best in the area. Personally, I have some philosophy in clinical teaching, because I believe it has brought me this far (AHJ, 2001).

First of all, the context in which clinical teaching occurs determines its effectiveness. The curriculum for instance, has its own external and internal influences and expectations from teachers and parents. In addition, the demands that the curriculum calls for are somehow unique. The internal most qualified factors include the faculty’s shared belief about education, the nature of teaching and learning, and the role of the prospective learners and teachers. This is the most philosophical context of the curriculum (Gaberson, 2010).

Moreover, the philosophical context postulates that clinical practice should reveal the nature of professional practice. This is to mean that what the students are taught, should always involve what is available in the nursing practice. More often than not, nursing students conduct their practices in nursing stations. This shows that the clinical teachers are aware of this philosophy, and thus always puts it into practice (KPMG, 2001). This is because the practice in the clinical setting, exposes the students in question to the realities of professional practices that cannot be conveyed in textbooks. Most of the professional practice situations are unique, complex and often unstable. Therefore, clinical learning activities should expose students to complex problems that cannot be easily solved with existing knowledge and technical skills.

Another concept of philosophy is the importance of clinical teaching. Nursing itself is a profession with its own merits. Nurses are some of the most influential professionals in a hospital setting. Nurses take proper care of the patients in a unique way, which would seem difficult to the ordinary doctors. This is because doctors are faced with an enormous work load of diagnosing patients and determining the best course of action. Therefore, the clinical practice of nurses and nursing students is more salient than what they learn in a classroom. Clinical education often provides students with opportunities for real life experiences, and transfer of knowledge to practical situations (KPMG, 2010).

Moreover, in the clinical setting, nurses come into contact with patients. This is for the main reason of testing theories, applying knowledge and learning skills. Although the typical activities of nursing students center on taking care of the patients, learning does not often occur during caregiving (Kenworthy, 2000). Therefore, the main activity that a nursing student should be concerned with is gaining knowledge and not necessarily acting. This is the main reason behind clinical teaching. Like in my case, I have been practicing in New Zealand for five years now. I also move a lot to different wards, in order to equip myself with the necessary knowledge in different sections of the hospital. This is particularly crucial in teaching practice, and the teachers are encouraged to impart this advice to their students.

Sufficient learning time should be provided before the performance of each student is evaluated. This time should be the same for all students in that class, so as to reduce bias. This is because students need to engage in learning activities and practice skills before their performance is evaluated. Skills acquisition is a complex process, which involves making errors and correcting them, and ensuring that they never occur again. Therefore, teachers should ensure that they have ample learning time with enough time for feedback before evaluating the performance of students (OCA, 2006).

Teachers should ensure that there is a climate of mutual trust and respect among the students, as this will support learning and students’ growth. Both teachers and the students share this responsibility of maintaining the required climate. However, teachers are responsible for establishing and maintaining expectations, thus enabling the students and faculty to partner in enhancing success (Papps, 2002).

Clinical learning and teaching should always focus on essential knowledge and skills. This is because every nursing education program has limited time for clinical teaching. Therefore, this time is used maximally, by focusing on the most common practice problems that the learners are likely to face in their practice. Therefore, the teachers need to identify the knowledge, skills and attitudes that are indispensable for students (Rodgers, 2001). Learners on the other hand, need to spend ample time in this essential curriculum.

In the clinical setting, the given curriculum may not be the curriculum in use. Although most faculty members would argue that there is one curriculum for nursing educational programs, the curriculum is interpreted differently by each teacher (Thompson, 2001). On the other hand, every student experiences this curriculum in use extremely differently. A faculty cannot decide on every aspect of what a teacher will teach or what a student will learn in a clinical setting. Instead, it is always advisable to come up with broader details, thus allowing the students and teachers to achieve their goals independently. Individual faculty members are cautioned not to individualize the curriculum, thus enhancing curriculum development and implementation (Yonge, 2004).

In addition to all this, students need to be debriefed in everything before they embark on any assignment. Debriefing is not the end of a cycle of learning. Rather, it leads once again to briefing, clinical practice and debriefing. Recent thinking about experience based learning has broadened the concept of post conference in nursing education. Therefore, it has shifted the emphasis from recounting events in a clinical assignment, to analysis of the students’ experiences. Debriefing is the most appropriate way of capturing what students experienced, as well as what was done (Willis, 2002).

In a problem based program, students are familiar with group problem solving. If a problem based learning program is successful, students will have learned to analyze clinical problems early in the course, and will also have adopted a self-evaluative learning style for their clinical practice. Following clinical practice, students could meet in a leaderless group, to debrief one another’s experiences (Williams, 2000).

It is true that on a purely informal and every day level, we learn from our experiences. However, on a professional level, a more informed, intentional and deliberate activity is needed. This will direct the way we continue to extract meaning from what we do, think or feel. Finally, there is a clear distinction between quality and quantity of clinical learning. The quality of a learner’s experience is more powerful than the amount of time spent in clinical activities. Both the activity and the amount of time should be individualized (Tight, 2003).


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