Aim of the study To ascertain the views held by some Irish general nurse managers of the Diploma in Nursing students' first clinical allocation.
Rationale Until 1994, nurses in Ireland were trained under a 3-year apprenticeship system and were employed throughout their clinical experience. In March 1997, the first intake of Diploma in Nursing students into one Dublin university were scheduled to commence their clinical placements. As this was the first time that supernumerary students were to be placed in the clinical areas, it was important to discover how effective the whole process was in terms of nurse managers' experiences.
Research methods A grounded-theory approach, using unstructured interviews, explored Irish nurse managers' views of the impact of supernumerary students in the workplace. Ethical approval was granted. All available nurse managers in three general teaching hospitals linked with the university agreed to take part (n = 10).
Results Three themes emerged from the data, entitled ‘Structure’, ‘Students’ and ‘Support’. In general, the managers believed that staff had had sufficient preparation for this change and that the whole process had been well handled. The respondents were pleasantly surprised by the students' abilities and interest in nursing. Minor problems were dealt with successfully at the local level and the support received by the students was found to be excellent.
Discussion Preconceptions of the students as more intellectual and less able for practical nursing were found to be untenable. The students' presence was welcomed and their questioning attitude, enthusiasm and application of knowledge was praised. Strong clinical support was required and students benefited from giving care, rather than just observing care given.
Conclusion It is recommended that supernumerary students should be encouraged to give full care under supervision, in order to learn and to become proficient in all clinical skills. The next phase of change, transition to degree status for students from 2002, will benefit from lessons learned in the past 7 years since transition from certificate to diploma education.