Recognising and reconciling differences: mental health nurses and nursing students' perceptions of the preceptorship relationship

Rosemary Charleston, Brenda Happell
Australian Journal of Advanced Nursing: a Quarterly Publication of the Royal Australian Nursing Federation 2006, 24 (2): 38-43

OBJECTIVE: The main purpose of this study was to examine the preceptorship relationship between students' and mental health nurses' in the mental health setting.

DESIGN: This study used a qualitative research design: grounded theory. This type of research method was deemed appropriate due to the limited knowledge of preceptorship in mental health.

SETTING: One metropolitan area mental health service (AMHS) in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia agreed to participate in this study. The range of settings included adult acute, rehabilitation and community.

SUBJECTS: Twenty 2nd year undergraduates nursing students from one metropolitan university in Melbourne, Australia agreed to participate in the study. In addition, nine mental health nurses from the nominated AMHS also consented to be involved.

MAIN OUTCOME: The development of a substantive theory to describe the preceptorship relationship as informed by the study participants, student nurses and mental health nurses. For the purposes of this paper the category of 'reconciling difference' is the focus.

RESULTS: The core category identified for mental health nurses was 'attempting to accomplish connectedness' and for the students, 'coping with uncertainty'. There were also many sub-categories, one of which was identified by both groups. This category is the main focus of this paper; reconciling difference.

CONCLUSION: Dealing with the uncertainty of, and reconciling differences between, the general and mental health environments emerged as a strong theme from the research. Student nurses were faced with confronting situations within the environment and made various suggestions for improvement so that their learning could be enhanced rather than inhibited. These findings make an important contribution to the specific issues concerning preceptorship in the mental health environment.

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