Student nurses’ perceptions of learning in a perioperative placement


  • Adele Callaghan

    1. Adele Callaghan MEd BN RN Lecturer in Nursing, PhD Student La Trobe Rural Health School, La Trobe University, Bendigo, Victoria, Australia
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callaghan a. (2011) Student nurses’ perceptions of learning in a perioperative placement. Journal of Advanced Nursing67(4), 854–864.


Aim.  The aim of this study was to explore undergraduate nurses’ perioperative specialist clinical experience and the impact this experience has on their perceptions of aspects of perioperative nursing.

Background.  Perioperative nursing is a highly specialized nursing practice, which is often underutilized for undergraduate clinical placement experience. The environment is perceived as technological. Experts recognize the extensive learning opportunities available to undergraduate nurses’ in this environment. This study explores how this specialist environment facilitates undergraduate student nurses’ learning in an Australian context.

Method.  The methodological approach used Heidegger’s hermeneutic phenomenology. The study was underpinned by Benner’s novice-to-expert skill acquisition theory. Data were collected through in-depth interviews with six third-year undergraduate nursing students following a perioperative clinical placement experience. Data were collected in December 2005.

Findings.  The findings of this study identify aspects of perioperative nursing and the perioperative environment interpreted through the lens of each participant. Three themes were identified from the data: aspects of nursing care, skill acquisition and the clinical learning environment in a perioperative setting. Each participant gained insight not only into perioperative nursing but also into its relationship to the general nature of nursing in a specialist setting.

Conclusion.  The preparation of novice nurses in a perioperative environment should include preparing them to identify the differences in patient care in an alternative setting. A consensus is required in Australia regarding the aspects of generalist nursing care, which need to be visible and clearly articulated for the novice by competent perioperative nurses.