A successful student placement is a lot like baking a cake. It takes the right ingredients coming together to result in a cake that can be shared by all. For any relationship to work, all effected parties must see the value in it for them.
Historically, hospitals have provided clinical placements for undergrad nursing students with limited to no external support or remuneration. It is therefore of no surprise that housing and preceptoring nursing students has been deemed a burden by clinical staff. Traditionally academic facilities have had to beg health care facilities to have their students placed, which has been met with a sense of resentment, obligation and added workload. As enrollments increase for both the enrolled and registered nurse course – to compensate for the future work force shortage – demand for health care placements is at an all time premium.
Health care facilities are failing to take advantage of the opportunities
What health care facilities are failing to take advantage of is the opportunity for future recruits, unsolicited feedback, community engagement, patient safety and increasing internal job prospects. Through engagement and participation it can be shown that in reality, health care facilities need academic facilities just as much as academic facilities need health care facilities.
Having this light bulb moment has meant that health care facilities have invested interest in providing quantity, but most importantly, quality clinical placements. Academic facilities also have a vested interest in maintaining this relationship to ensure quality, security and longevity.
So, how is this achieved?
Student support staff, i.e. Clinical Facilitators, must be staff of the health care facilities. This allows for a smoother transition of external parties coming into the facilities. It is then the responsibility of the clinical facilitators to support and assess the students under the banner of the health care facility’s values.
Academic facilities also must play a participatory role. We have found that clinical facilitators are better able to assess and support students, and staff supervising students, when the academic facilities take a hands-on approach. This requirement may be less over time, however the initial face to face contact is incredibly valuable to establish a relationship with open and transparent communication that ensures values and expectations are aligned.
There is a lot to be gained by increasing student placement numbers within the health care facility, however all this is lost without the support of hospital executive and unit managers. Establishing this support is paramount. This is the flour and the egg that binds the ingredients together. By having the right ingredients working together, there is great opportunity to make the cake and eat it too.