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Keywords:

  • nursing education;
  • supernumerary status;
  • Republic of Ireland;
  • clinical learning;
  • structuration;
  • role theory

Background/rationale.  In the Republic of Ireland, the amount of clinical teaching expected of staff nurses has increased substantially in the wake of the transfer of nursing education to universities, and the advent of supernumerary status for students. A modicum of previous research noted that staff nurses are unclear about their role in relation to facilitating the clinical learning of supernumerary students.

Aims of the paper.  To explore staff nurses' perceptions of their role in the facilitation of learning for university-educated diploma students in the clinical area and their attitudes towards these students.

Design/methods.  Sixteen staff nurses were interviewed in depth using semi-structured interviews. Data were analysed qualitatively, using content analysis, with the help of the software package NUD*IST.

Findings.  Among the central themes to emerge, upon which this article is focused, was participants' perceptions of supernumerary status compared with rostered service for diploma students. Data suggested that the rostered status of students was generally favoured by staff nurses over and above supernumerary status because, unlike supernumerary students, rostered students did not disrupt the existing social structure within the clinical setting. Both structuration theory and role theory are drawn upon to explain the reproduction of the prevailing social structure, where the concentration is on getting through nursing work with little emphasis on the supervised learning of supernumerary students.

Study limitations.  This study is constrained by eliciting only the views of staff nurses. Further studies are required of student nurses' experiences of rostered service and supernumerary status.

Conclusions.  Because staff nurses are part of the system within which they work, they need to modify their role to include active student teaching as a legitimate component of that role.