One major challenge facing the health care systems worldwide is the growing demand for registered nurses able to provide qualified nursing care for a vulnerable population. Positive learning experiences during clinical practice influence not only learning outcomes, but also how students reason in relation to future career choices.
To investigate student nurses' experiences of the clinical learning environment during clinical practice in nursing homes, and to compare perceptions among student nurses with or without prior work experience as health care assistants in elderly care.
A cross-sectional study was designed, utilising the Swedish version of the CLES+T evaluation scale.
260 student nurses (response rate 76%) who had completed a five week long clinical placement in nursing homes returned the questionnaire during the data collection period in 2011-2012. Data were analysed using descriptive statistics. Mann-Whitney U-test was used to examine differences in relation to students with or without prior experience of elderly care.
Overall, the clinical learning environment was evaluated in a predominantly positive way. The sub-dimension Supervisory relationship displayed the highest mean value, and the lowest score was calculated for the sub-dimension Leadership style of the ward manager. Statistical significant differences between sub-groups were displayed for four out of 34 items.
The supervisory relationship had the greatest impact on how student nurses experienced the clinical learning environment in nursing homes. It is therefore, of utmost importance that collaborative activities, between educational and nursing home settings, supporting the work of preceptors are established and maintained.