A triadic interplay between academics, practitioners and students in the nursing theory and practice dialectic


E.A. Chan: e-mail: hseachan@inet.polyu.edu.hk


chan e.a., chan k. & liu y.w.j. (2011) A triadic interplay between academics, practitioners and students in the nursing theory and practice dialectic. Journal of Advanced Nursing 68(5), 1038–1049.


Aim.  This article is a report of a descriptive study of the effectiveness of classroom teaching by clinical nurse specialists on students’ transfer of theory into practice.

Background.  Ongoing concern about a theory-practice merger in nursing has led to collaborative initiatives between academics and practitioners globally. There are different forms of collaborative efforts, but information on their evaluation is scarce and inconclusive. Integration of theory and practice is important for an outcome-based approach, which emphasizes students’ clinical competence as the measure of success. The limited nursing discussion on theory and practice collaboration in education was our impetus for the study.

Methods.  Between 2007 and 2008, focus group interviews were held, first with 75 and then with 35 from the same group of first-year students, regarding their learning experience from the lectures of the two clinical nurse specialists in diabetes and colostomy care, respectively, prior to and after their clinical placements. Six of their clinical instructors and the two clinical nurse specialists were also interviewed. The audiotaped interviews were transcribed verbatim and analysed using content analysis.

Findings.  Three themes were identified: impact of students’ vicarious learning from clinical nurse specialists’ stories of experience; improving the collaboration between clinical nurse specialists and subject lecturers for junior students’ learning experience; continuity in the clinical integration of theory-practice as dialectic through an interplay between academics, practitioners and students.

Conclusion.  The theory and practice issue is best addressed as a triadic paradigm in a community of practice with the collaboration among academics, practitioners and students.