An evaluation of the role of the clinical education facilitator

Brendan McCormack, Paul Slater
Journal of Clinical Nursing 2006, 15 (2): 135-44

AIMS AND OBJECTIVES: The objective of the study was to identify whether clinical education facilitators made a difference to the learning experiences of nurses in a large teaching hospital.

BACKGROUND: Strategies for enabling continuous professional development are well established in health care organizations as key components of approaches to lifelong learning. The benefits of continuous professional development include the maintenance of high standards of care, the improvement and development of services, ensuring the competency of all nursing staff and guaranteeing the accountability of nurses for their actions. The role of clinical education facilitator is relatively new and little evaluation of this role has been undertaken.

CONCLUSIONS: This study highlights important issues to be considered in developing a 'learning culture' in a hospital organization, through the adoption of such roles as clinical education facilitators. Whilst the roles have had an important function in the active coordination of learning activities in the hospital, there is little evidence of the role directly impacting on the learning culture of clinical settings. Learning mechanisms have been identified. The results of this evaluation can be subjected to further testing through ongoing evaluation of the outcomes arising from the learning mechanisms in place. Given the emphasis on work-based learning and continuing professional development in health care, then this ongoing evaluation can yield important information about future directions for nurse education.

RELEVANCE TO CLINICAL PRACTICE: The study highlights the importance of supported learning in the workplace. However, more importantly, it identifies the need for a culture of professional practice to be developed in order to sustain learning in practice. Classroom-based learning alone, cannot create a culture of development in nursing and there is thus a need for models of work-based learning to be integrated into practice environments.

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