Aim. This paper is a report of a study to explore the meaning of empowerment for nursing students in relation to their clinical practice experiences.
Background. Empowerment and power are well-researched areas of nursing practice, particularly in relation to Registered Nurses. Furthermore, several studies have considered the experiences of nursing students in terms of nursing culture and socialization. However, few researchers have focused specifically on nursing student empowerment.
Method. The critical incident technique was used and anonymous data were collected between November 2005 and January 2006. One hundred and nine written critical incidents were provided by 66 nursing students relating to empowering and disempowering experiences in clinical practice. The data were content analysed.
Findings. Nursing students experience both empowerment and disempowerment in clinical placements, centring on three issues: learning in practice, team membership and power. Continuity of placement, the presence of a mentor and time underpinned empowering experiences whereas their absence had a disempowering effect.
Conclusion. The consequences of nursing student empowerment are high self-esteem, motivation for learning and positive regard for placement. Supportive mentors play a pivotal role in the empowerment of nursing students and it is essential for the nursing profession that they are supported to undertake their mentorship role.