Aim. This paper reports a two-phase descriptive study exploring the clinical role of the nurse educator in Malta.
Background. Previous studies indicate a number of similarities and differences in the clinical role of nurse educators by country of practice. These include importance assigned to the role, factors inhibiting/facilitating the role, means to eliminate barriers to the role, and perceptions of the ideal role.
Design and methods. Data were collected using both quantitative and qualitative strategies. The quantitative phase involved asking all educators to fill in a time log of their academic and clinical activities for a 2-week period. In the qualitative phase, the first author interviewed five educators, five nurses and five students about their perceptions of factors which impact the nurse educator's clinical role, as well as what the ideal clinical role of the nurse educator should be.
Findings. Maltese nurse educators allot minimal time to their clinical role. Main reasons cited included workload, perceived lack of control over the clinical area, and diminished clinical competence. Nurse educators who frequented the clinical settings (who were either university or joint university and health service employees) where the study took place perceived that employment inequities among the various categories of nurse educators played an important role in the amount of time dedicated by each group to their clinical roles, and the importance individuals in these groups assigned to that role. The majority of interviewees saw the current role of nurse educators in Malta as preparing students for successful completion of the didactic sections of their programme, rather than preparing them with all the knowledge and clinical skills necessary to be competent practitioners. Participants considered that, when in clinical areas, nurse educators did focus on their students, as they should. However, they also thought that they often did not take the opportunity to forge links with professional staff.
Conclusion. The clinical role of the Maltese nurse educator needs to be more multifaceted in approach.