A descriptive phenomenological study of nursing student experiences of clinical data use in clinical rotations




Straughn, Marcia

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Clinical learning experiences are important opportunities for nursing students in that they gather and synthesize data of patients’ conditions, provide appropriate nursing interventions, and evaluate patient outcomes, applying their knowledge and skills learned from the classroom in real practice. In order to ensure quality clinical learning for nursing students, it is vital to hear the voices of nursing students on how they experience clinical learning, particularly with regards to clinical data use. This qualitative, exploratory approach was conducted, using descriptive phenomenology as the philosophical framework, through in-depth interviews with eighteen junior and senior baccalaureate nursing students at a large, public university in Texas. The interview data were analyzed according to Colaizzi’s method of descriptive phenomenological data analysis. Theme 1: Help Wanted was revealed in descriptions of needing or wanting help with using clinical data. Theme 2: Making Sense, included descriptions about ways that clinical data make sense and ways that clinical data assisted students in making sense in both clinical and classroom. Theme 3: Recognizing Usefulness emerged from descriptions of how clinical data was used or could be used.
Participant descriptions of how clinical data in clinical rotations was related to communication illuminated Theme 4: Engaging in Communication. Descriptions of the impact of the assigned nurse on student experiences with using clinical data in clinical rotations resulted in the emergence of Theme 5: Nurse as Key Player. Lastly, Theme 6: Emotionally Charged, emerged from descriptions about emotional experiences related to experiences of clinical data use in clinical rotations. The thematic findings were reduced according to Colaizzi’s method, resulting in an exhaustive statement of description, and a descriptive statement of identification of the phenomenon of interest. The findings may be used to assist nurse educators in developing effective ways to help students use clinical data for effective clinical learning. Suggestions to achieve this aim include improved orientation for educators and nursing staff and emotional support for students. Policy development to address barriers to effective clinical learning and the development of the future nursing workforce remains an important strategy for supporting nursing students and their preparation for entry into professional nursing practice.



Clinical rotations, Nursing education, Clinical data, Clinical judgment