Practicum structures and nursing student retention/achievement rates in a United Kingdom university: a quantitative analysis

Coleman, Phil (2023). Practicum structures and nursing student retention/achievement rates in a United Kingdom university: a quantitative analysis. Quality Advancement in Nursing Education - Avancées en formation infirmière, 9(1), article no. 7.



This study sought to examine whether the consistent application of a specific placement design to student practice learning experiences within two pre-registration nursing degree programs offered by a university in the United Kingdom (UK) affected retention and achievement levels. The quantitative analysis involved a sample of 460 employer-sponsored undergraduates, all of whom worked as non-registrant carers, within two cohorts of a part-time adult (physical) or mental health nursing degree program, both of four years duration, offered by a large academic institution with a presence in all four UK nations. Cross-tabulation and multinomial logistic regression analyses found no statistically significant relationship between exclusive student exposure to either block or integrated practicum experiences in respect of program withdrawal rates or the degree classification achieved by such learners.
Unlike pre-registration nurse education programs offered within some other countries, for example Australia and Canada, most of those provided in the UK have traditionally been based solely on a block design. Nevertheless, recent changes in the program options available to learners seeking to acquire Registered Nurse status, combined with growing demand for healthcare placements, have led some UK universities to now consider alternative practicum models and so optimise use of available placement capacity. Internationally, no previous work investigating the potential impact of the two practicum designs on student retention and academic achievement appears to have been undertaken in respect of pre-registration programs, either in nursing or any other health or social care discipline. The absence of any statistically significant effect of a practicum design upon the identified performance measures may therefore be both helpful and reassuring to academic institutions either using, or planning to implement, both models.
Whilst the results are institutionally and geographically specific and derived exclusively from only two nursing programs, they still make an important contribution to a seriously under-researched field. It is hoped that the work will stimulate further investigation regarding the impact of undergraduate experience within different placement models both within and beyond nurse education. The literature review associated with this study also identified widespread inconsistent use of terminology to describe the two practicum models; a situation which may be adversely affecting efforts to consolidate the body of knowledge related to the effect of different placement designs.

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