Service user involvement in nurse education: perceptions of mental health nursing students


H. O' Donnell, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Queens University, Belfast, Medical Biology Centre, 97, Lisburn Road, Belfast BT9 7BL, UK, E-mail:


Accessible summary

  • • Professional education and policy strategies increasingly stress the need for service users to be involved in the education of all nursing students, including students undertaking mental health field programmes.
  • • In this study, a sample of recently graduated mental health nursing students, are asked to describe their perceptions of increased service user involvement in mental health nursing programmes.
  • • The findings of the study demonstrated that recently graduated students were supportive of service user involvement. Study participants recognize the value of this involvement, the need to protect users who may be vulnerable and the clear benefits to both personal and service development, which will result from increased user engagement.


Increasingly providers of mental health nurse education are required to demonstrate user involvement in all aspects of these programmes including student selection, programme design and student assessment. There has been limited analysis of how nursing students perceive user involvement in nurse education programmes. The aim of this study has been to explore mental health nursing student's perceptions of involving users in all aspects of pre-registration mental health nursing programme. Researchers completed a number of focus group interviews with 12 ex-mental health nursing students who had been recruited by purposeful sampling. Each focus group interview was recorded and analysed using a series of data reduction, data display and verification methods. The study confirms many of the findings reported in earlier user participation in education studies. Three main themes related to user involvement have been identified: the protection of users, enhanced student learning and the added value benefits associated with user involvement.