Creating a Positive Learning Environment - the CAPLE project

Year: 2017

Author: Collins, Emma, Anderson, Lynley, Blakey, Althea, Smith-Han, Kelby, Berrymn, Wilkinson

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Health professional students describe mixed experiences in interactions with staff within the clinical learning environment. Students report positive experiences while on clinical placement, but also report negative experiences and unwanted behaviours. The Otago Polytechnic School of Nursing, with the Dunedin School of Medicine undertook participatory action research in response to reports of concerning levels of student harassment. This project aims to facilitate curriculum transformation through empowering students and ensuring the environment is fit for purpose.
A negative clinical learning experience can be devastating for a student. Literature suggests that students doubt their career choice, fail to learn and experience stress and mental health issues (Rodwell, Demir & Steane, 2013; Ekici & Beder, 2014).
The goal of the CAPLE (Creating a positive learning environment) project is to work with clinical staff to improve teaching and learning, to make a positive environment for learning. One phase has been completed with phase 2 commencing in August, 2017. It is intended that all clinical areas within the current clinical setting will be covered.
Initial aspects of this project included surveys to numerous student populations to identify particular trends and concerns, which informed the interventions. A clinical area was then identified within a local hospital and interventions commenced over 2 months. Two investigators worked closely with health care staff in the clinical environment, and in further depth with 6 Doctors and 6 Nurses, referred to as the STARs - Staff participants as researchers. The aim was to improve teaching and learning through several interventions including workshops and one-on-one discussions. These interventions were selected based on what staff need from their perspective, what staff of 'Exemplar' departments do and, interventions identified by CAPLE staff. CAPLE researchers get alongside participants and establish rapport with them. In this way participants are not only researched but also become researchers fully engaged in THEIR project.
Preliminary findings include self-reflection from participants, staff engagement, workshops that are useful to practice and clarity around specific issues raised about teaching practice. Bullying and mistreatment behaviours were discussed. Participants responded well to the interventions and will therefore contribute to ensuring the environment is more positive for students to learn in.
The CAPLE project expects to see results over a significant period of time in respect to what the students are experiencing on placement. The well-being of students on placement should be a concern to all health care practitioners to ensure we are providing an appropriate learning environment.
A recommendation carried over from Phase 1 is to ensure more measurable data and a well-being app for students has been developed. We anticipate that feedback from students on clinical placements in regards to experiencing negative behaviours will become more positive.