Assessing levels of student nurse learning in community based health placement with vulnerable families: Knowledge development for future clinical practice
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Background: Community services work with vulnerable families to assist them to link with health, education and welfare services. Community placements provide nursing students with understandings of the health impacts of social circumstances on broad population’s. Nurses provide health care for vulnerable populations so it is important for students to gain experience in dealing with various population groups in a variety of settings. Community placements can increase student confidence to provide care for all people in the acute care setting. Objectives: The research project explored the use of a community placement to assist nursing students in applying psychosocial theories to practice; determining the affect of nursing students to the community service; and if the learning achieved in the placement was applicable to their future nursing practice were also objectives of the research. Design: The mixed methods design used placement suitability focused questionnaires, and student, staff and clinical supervisor one-to-one interviews. Settings: In 2015 a community based homelessness service which provides a home visiting service approached the School of Nursing and Midwifery to provide a community placement for nursing students.. The urban homelessness service caters for 350 homeless clients per month. Participants: Eight second year nursing students and six fulltime homelessness staff, mainly social workers, participated in the surveys and interviews. Methods: Nursing students were ‘buddied’ with a social worker and visited individuals and families recently placed in emergency housing. The student nurses (8) and homelessness staff (6) were surveyed and interviewed about their knowledge, skills and perceptions about the value of community based placements. Results: Findings indicate student’s recognition of the skills to be learned in a non-acute setting are applicable to all clinical settings and enhance student knowledge and potential future care. The staff in the homelessness service espouse the enhancement provided by the expertise of the nursing students working with vulnerable populations. This paper highlights the benefits as perceived by students on often undervalued community based placements. Conclusions: It is essential that universities collaborate with industry and consumers to ensure that the undergraduate programs offer a high standard of care and address current trends in the health care industry. There is a growing need for workforce development in primary healthcare and an increased understanding about how adversity can lead to ill health.