Illuminating the essential elements of the role of the clinical placement co-ordinator: a phenomenological inquiry


  • Martin S McNamara BSc, MSc, MA, MEd, RNT, RGN, RPN

    1. Lecturer, UCD, School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health Systems, UCD Health Sciences Centre, UCD Dublin, Belfield, Ireland
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Martin S McNamara
UCD, School of Nursing
Midwifery and Health Systems
UCD Health Sciences Centre
UCD Dublin
Dublin 4
Telephone: +353 1 7166486


Aims and objectives.  The research aims to illuminate the essential elements of the role of the clinical placement co-ordinator.

Background.  Clinical placement co-ordinators were introduced to Irish health-care settings to support the clinical learning of nursing students after the ending of the apprenticeship model of nurse training and in the context of reforms culminating in the introduction of the BSc (Nursing) degree as the sole route of entry to practice in 2002.

Design.  A phenomenological design was used in order to explicate the necessary and sufficient elements of the role from clinical placement co-ordinators’ accounts of their experiences of and in the post.

Methods.  In-depth, unstructured interviews were conducted with a purposive sample of five clinical placement co-ordinators. The interview process was guided by Crotty's framework for phenomenological data collection and analysed using Moustakas’ modification of Van Kaam's method of data analysis.

Results.  Analysis and interpretation of the rich, narrative descriptions elaborated for each of the five participants revealed three essential elements pervading each account: being a dedicated presence for nursing students; facilitating the establishment, maintenance and development of the clinical teaching partnership between staff nurses and students; and monitoring the clinical learning environment to ensure safe practice. Each element emerged as necessary and sufficient from the accounts of each respondent, thus capturing the essence of the clinical placement co-ordinator role.

Conclusions.  The exclusive focus on students’ clinical learning needs is the essential element of clinical placement co-ordinators’ role, requiring them to marshal human and other resources to optimize the clinical learning environment.

Relevance to clinical practice.  Optimizing students’ clinical learning is a joint endeavour but benefits from the availability in clinical settings of a dedicated support person for students and staff.