• clinical placements;
  • clinical practice;
  • empowerment;
  • hermeneutic phenomenology;
  • mentors;
  • nursing students;
  • spheres of influence

bradbury-jones c., irvine f. & sambrook s. (2010) Empowerment of nursing students in clinical practice: spheres of influence. Journal of Advanced Nursing66(9), 2061–2070.


Aim.  This paper is a report of a study exploring the empowerment of nursing students in clinical practice.

Background.  There is a great deal of literature regarding empowerment in nursing but most focuses on the empowerment of patients and registered nurses. There is very little regarding the empowerment of nursing students. Of the limited available studies, most explore empowerment in an academic, rather than a clinical context.

Methods.  This longitudinal study was underpinned by hermeneutic phenomenology. Thirteen first-year nursing students were recruited using a purposive sampling strategy. Annual, in-depth interviews were conducted with the students on their trajectory from the first to third year of the undergraduate programme. Data were collected between 2007 and 2009.

Findings.  By the end of the study, most students felt more empowered than they had at the beginning. They attributed this to increased knowledge and confidence. Empowerment of nursing students in clinical practice can be represented in the form of ‘spheres of influence’. Intrinsic, essential structures of having knowledge and confidence are at the core. External spheres influence the extent to which nursing students are likely to experience increased knowledge and confidence, and thus empowerment. However, nursing students use a number of strategies to promote their own empowerment in clinical practice.

Conclusion.  Efforts to promote the empowerment of nursing students in clinical practice need to be multi-layered and targeted at each of the spheres of influence.