Student nurses' feedback from mental health service users in practice : a participatory action research study

Speers, Wendy Jane (2013). Student nurses' feedback from mental health service users in practice : a participatory action research study. EdD thesis The Open University.



This study involved student nurses, lecturers, mentors and service users in working together to design, evaluate and refine a system enabling student mental health nurses to seek feedback from service users. The feedback concerned students' interpersonal skills and occurred in practice, at the point of service delivery.

Although the drive to engage service users in service delivery, research and education has mainstream acceptance, much remains to be learned about how to achieve meaningful involvement. Mental health professionals are striving to adopt the recovery model and harness service user expertise through the development of more reciprocal relationships. This research aims to contribute to this wider thrust, by exploring the experiences of those concerned when students attempt to learn from rather than about service users.

Conducted over two years, a participatory action research approach was adopted. Data came from interviews held with those implementing the system for feedback, and from the deliberations of the participants guiding the process.

Thematic analysis produced evidence of relevance to nurse educationalists, mental health nurses and researchers. Although contextual, findings indicated that service users volunteering to give feedback had a positive experience. Students' experience lay on a continuum. Those with a stronger sense of self were more willing and able to ask for feedback than less confident students. Cultural adjustment to the role change required presented a challenge and tested self-awareness. Over time, all students achieved deep learning and, for some, learning appeared transformative.

Recommendations relate to the system for seeking feedback and the conduct of participatory action research. Overall, the study concluded that both allowed the development of more equitable relationsh ips, in which mental health nurses respected the expertise of service users. This potentially benefits student development, recoveryorientated practice, service users and Higher Education Institutions searching for meaningful ways to involve service users in learning and formative assessment.

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