An Analysis of Student Learning

An analysis of student learning in undergraduate nursing.


The delivery of quality healthcare in the 21st century is a complex job that requires higher level thinking processes such as clinical reasoning and critical thinking. These higher level processes enable the competent clinical nurse to make safe and effective decisions in complex and stressful situations (Adams, Stover, & Whitlow, 1999; Banning, 2006; Ferrario, 2004; Snelgrove, 2004; Standing, 2007).

To ensure nurses are competent to deliver safe and competent care the state registering bodies expect undergraduate nursing courses to produce nurses with these skills. Universities use the National Competency Standards for the Registered Nurse developed by the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Council for curriculum development and for assessment of performance of students and new graduates (ANMC, 2005).

While the author could find no direct studies comparing the approaches to learning adopted by undergraduate nursing students to the critical thinking and clinical reasoning skills of experienced, competent Registered Nurses working in the clinical area, it could be argued that the understanding and meaning achieved by using deep approaches to learning would likely lead to development of the thinking and reasoning skills required by a competent clinical nurse.

To support this argument the author will discuss the theory of approaches to learning and teaching and use interviews from two undergraduate nursing students to illustrate how the students learn in the clinical setting and it’s ramifications for clinical teaching.

Data Collection

Two final year undergraduate nursing students were interviewed about their experiences of clinical placements in this, their final year. Both students were female, mature age students. Both were Endorsed Enrolled Nurses (EENs) doing a transition to Registered Nurse (RN) course and both were currently working in the public health system when...