The importance of clinical experience for mental health nursing - part 1: undergraduate nursing students' attitudes, preparedness and satisfaction

Brenda Happell
International Journal of Mental Health Nursing 2008, 17 (5): 326-32
Government inquiries and workforce data continue to draw attention to the current and impending crisis in mental health nursing. While undergraduate nursing education has been found at least partially responsible for the negative attitudes nursing students tend to hold towards mental health nursing, clinical experience has been identified as a potential strategy in enhancing more positive attitudes. However, research to date has not focused on the impact of clinical experience on specific factors such as attitudes to mental health nursing to people experiencing mental illness and perceived preparedness for the mental health field. This quasi-experimental study measured changes in students' attitudes to the three factors, including satisfaction with clinical experience following a placement in mental health nursing. A questionnaire was administered to undergraduate nursing students on the first and last day of a mental health clinical placement. This, the first of a two-part paper, compares student responses over the two-time periods and describes satisfaction with the clinical experience. The findings suggest that clinical experience in mental health nursing experience can positively influence attitudes, preparedness for practice, and the popularity of mental health nursing. Satisfaction with clinical experience was also high.

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