Plugging a hole and lightening the burden: a process evaluation of a practice education team


  • Maggie Mallik MPhil, RN, Cert Ed,

  • Jane A Hunt PhD, RSCN, RGN, DNCert, FETC

Maggie Mallik
Head of Learning in Practice Nottingham Unit (LiPNU)
Nottingham Health Community
Rushcliffe PCT
Tudor Square
West Bridgford
Nottingham NG2 6BT
Telephone: +44 115 9560312


Aim.  To investigate the perceptions of clinical and senior managers about the role of practice educators (PEs) employed in one acute hospital in the UK.

Background.  Producing nurses who are fit for practice, purpose and academic award is a key issue for nurse education partnership providers in the UK. Various new models for practice learning support structures and new roles within health care institutions have been established. To sustain funding and policy support for these models, there is a need for evaluation research.

Design.  A process evaluation methodology was employed to determine the current value of a practice education team and to provide information to guide future direction.

Methods.  Data were collected through semi-structured telephone interviews using a previously designed schedule. All senior nurse managers (n = 5) and a purposive sample of Clinical Managers (n = 13) who had personal experience of and perceptions about the role of PEs provided the data. Interview notes were transcribed, coded and a thematic framework devised to present the results.

Results.  A number of key themes emerged including: qualities needed for being a successful practice educator; visibility and presence of PEs; providing a link with the university; ‘plugging a hole’ in supporting learning needs; providing relief to practitioners in dealing with ‘the burden of students;’ alleviating the ‘plight of students;’ and effects on student attrition.

Conclusions.  Findings provided evidence for the continued funding of the practice educator role with improvements to be made in dealing with stakeholder expectations and outcomes.

Relevance to clinical practice.  In the UK, there still remain concerns about the fitness for practice of newly Registered Nurses, prompting a recent national consultation by the professional regulating body. Despite fiscal pressures, recommendations for further strengthening of all systems that will support the quality of practice learning may continue to sustain practice learning support roles.