Supervision Of Nursing Students In Rural Environments: Engaging Learning By Teaching The Teachers
The health profession workforce is challenged by the increased numbers of undergraduate students requiring supervised experiences in environments where service delivery is the primary goal. Given the increased need to recruit and retain suitably qualified and educationally prepared staff into these sometimes under resourced locations, guidance of health profession students, in particular students of nursing, in rural areas of Tasmania is a topical issue. This situation was acknowledged in 2010 when the Commonwealth Government’s Department of Health and Ageing sponsored a local project to increase the number of opportunities for students to undertake professional experience within non-traditional and rural healthcare settings. The project goals included identifying and acknowledging those healthcare professionals who supervised learners; providing guidance, mentorship and resources; and building capability and capacity in environments to host students. On project completion, further Commonwealth funding became available through Health Workforce Australia to continue the project aims.
Over six years, an educational process focusing on the needs of rural healthcare professionals related to supervision and support of undergraduate nursing students was established. An evaluative approach enabled the use of Weimer’s personal accounts of change methodology to analyse and critique the application of developed learning and teaching resources. Initially resource development focused on current knowledge, skills and understandings of supervision of learners by health professionals in practice. From the findings, the scope of support broadened to include development and delivery of workshops to enable the supervisors of students to develop a pedagogical understanding of learning and teaching in healthcare settings. Evaluation suggested supervisors require guidance and mentorship related to the ‘how’ of learning and teaching. More specifically they wanted synchronous and asynchronous access to consistent and contemporary learning and teaching information in a timely manner. Given their geographic isolation, this educational support was delivered in a variety of innovative ways, including digital resources, online programs, videoconferencing and face-to-face learning opportunities. This paper outlines the processes and outcomes of developing a collaborative approach to increasing the capability and capacity of health professionals, in particular registered nurses, who choose to supervise undergraduate students during their rural workplace-based professional experience.
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