Title. Staff – student relationships and their impact on nursing students’ belongingness and learning.
Aim. This paper is a report of selected findings from a study exploring the relationship between belongingness and placement experiences of preregistration nursing students.
Background. Staff-student relationships are an important influence on students’ experiences of belongingness and their clinical learning. The need to belong is universal and pervasive, exerting a powerful influence on thought processes, emotions, behaviour, health and happiness. People deprived of belongingness are more likely to experience diminished self-esteem, increased stress and anxiety, depression and a decrease in general well-being. Nursing students’ motivation and capacity to learn, self-concept, confidence, the extent to which they are willing to question or conform to poor practice and their future career decisions are influenced by the extent to which they experience belongingness.
Method. During 2006, 18 third year students from two Australian universities and one United Kingdom university participated in in-depth semi-structured interviews. Data were analysed thematically.
Findings. Participants described placement experiences spanning a continuum from those promoting a high degree of belongingness to those provoking intense feelings of alienation. Staff-student relationships (including receptiveness, inclusion/exclusion, legitimization of the student role, recognition and appreciation, challenge and support) were the most important influence on students’ sense of belonging and learning. Similarities between sites were remarkable, despite the differences in healthcare and higher education systems.
Conclusion. Staff-student relationships are key to students’ experience of belongingness. Understanding the types of interactions and behaviours that facilitate or impede students’ belongingness and learning are essential to the creation of positive clinical experiences.