Journal of Nursing Education

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Research Preceptorship for Degree-seeking RNs: A Strategy for Resocialization

Vicki Viar, MSN, RN; Wendy C Booth, BSN, RN; Ellen Tate Patterson, DSN, RN

Abstract

In response to the emphasis on baccalaureate preparation for professional practice, schools of nursing are experiencing an influx of diploma and associate degree (AD) registered nurses (RNs) who return to the educational arena seeking the baccalaureate degree (King, 1986). It has been argued that the professional socialization needs of these degree-seeking RNs are qualitatively different from those of generic nursing students (King, 1986; Queen, 1984). Of particular ealiency in contemporary role socialization of both generic students and degree-seeking RNs is the content area of research. Many degree-seeking RNs previously have internalized role characteristics and behaviors of the caretaker, teacher, manager, and consultant through experiential means; however, they have had little experience with the researcher role (Kramer, 1981). This situation creates a challenge for nurse educators attempting to develop strategies to facilitate the socialization process of RN students. To achieve resocialization in a way that generates enthusiasm and creates or enhances a research mentality, the preceptorship is a teaching/learning strategy that merits consideration. The purpose of this report is to introduce concepts related to the researcher role socialization of degreeseeking RNs and to describe the dynamics of a research preceptorship utilized at one university school of nursing.

Conceptual Perspective

DEGREE-SEEKING RNs-Of particular relevance to this report are the changing demographics of baccalaureate nursing students (National League for Nursing, 1982). The RN population in baccalaureate schools of nursing increased nearly fourfold from 1971 to 1980 and continues to increase at exponential rates. Because the curricula of AO and diploma programs do not contain a research component, integration of the researcher role is an important goal in the baccalaureate education and resocialization of these nurses.

PROFESSIONAL SOCIALIZATIONThe American Academy of Colleges for Nursing (AACN) (1986) defined nursing socialization as "a largely subconscious process by which an individual acquires the attributes associated with a profession" (p. 3). Components of nursing professional socialization include a liberal arts base, the procurement of nursing knowledge for practice, and the internalization of certain values and professional behaviors. Logically, resocialization of degree-seeking RNe includes the provision of a liberal arts base, assimilation of new nursing knowledge, and exposure to experiences leading to internalization of professional values and behaviors - for example, the valuing of scientific inquiry and the integration of research findings into clinical practice.

RESEARCH AS CONTENT AREAOnly since 1979 have accreditation guidelines of the National League for Nursing (NLN) required that schools of nursing introduce the research process to students at the baccalaureate level (National League for Nursing, 1979). Studies conducted after institution of these guidelines have shown that the majority of baccalaureate programs are complying (Spruck, 1980; Thomas & Price, 1980). However, a continuing problem for nurse educators is the lack of enthusiasm for research displayed by undergraduate students (Marriner, 1980; Wilson, 1982). This lack of enthusiasm has been found to persist even after research coursework is completed (Swenson & Kleinbaum, 1984). A variety of strategies for generating interest in research has been described and includes traditional lecture, computer-assisted instruction, and small group discussion (Hastings-Tolsma & Brockopp, 1986). However, to date, no nursing literature has been disseminated regarding use of the preceptorship model as a means of resocializing degree-seeking RNs into the researcher role.

THE PRECEPTORSHIP MODELEducationally, preceptorship is defined as the use of a role model, or mentor, who works one-on-one with a student and is a strategy strongly advocated for both the facilitation of cognitive learning and the acquisition of skills (Shamian & Lemieux, 1984). Preceptorship has also been found useful for pre-graduate nursing students in an effort to avoid the hazards of reality shock and burn-out (Kramer & Schmalenberg, 1977). Many degree-seeking RNs…

In response to the emphasis on baccalaureate preparation for professional practice, schools of nursing are experiencing an influx of diploma and associate degree (AD) registered nurses (RNs) who return to the educational arena seeking the baccalaureate degree (King, 1986). It has been argued that the professional socialization needs of these degree-seeking RNs are qualitatively different from those of generic nursing students (King, 1986; Queen, 1984). Of particular ealiency in contemporary role socialization of both generic students and degree-seeking RNs is the content area of research. Many degree-seeking RNs previously have internalized role characteristics and behaviors of the caretaker, teacher, manager, and consultant through experiential means; however, they have had little experience with the researcher role (Kramer, 1981). This situation creates a challenge for nurse educators attempting to develop strategies to facilitate the socialization process of RN students. To achieve resocialization in a way that generates enthusiasm and creates or enhances a research mentality, the preceptorship is a teaching/learning strategy that merits consideration. The purpose of this report is to introduce concepts related to the researcher role socialization of degreeseeking RNs and to describe the dynamics of a research preceptorship utilized at one university school of nursing.

Conceptual Perspective

DEGREE-SEEKING RNs-Of particular relevance to this report are the changing demographics of baccalaureate nursing students (National League for Nursing, 1982). The RN population in baccalaureate schools of nursing increased nearly fourfold from 1971 to 1980 and continues to increase at exponential rates. Because the curricula of AO and diploma programs do not contain a research component, integration of the researcher role is an important goal in the baccalaureate education and resocialization of these nurses.

PROFESSIONAL SOCIALIZATIONThe American Academy of Colleges for Nursing (AACN) (1986) defined nursing socialization as "a largely subconscious process by which an individual acquires the attributes associated with a profession" (p. 3). Components of nursing professional socialization include a liberal arts base, the procurement of nursing knowledge for practice, and the internalization of certain values and professional behaviors. Logically, resocialization of degree-seeking RNe includes the provision of a liberal arts base, assimilation of new nursing knowledge, and exposure to experiences leading to internalization of professional values and behaviors - for example, the valuing of scientific inquiry and the integration of research findings into clinical practice.

RESEARCH AS CONTENT AREAOnly since 1979 have accreditation guidelines of the National League for Nursing (NLN) required that schools of nursing introduce the research process to students at the baccalaureate level (National League for Nursing, 1979). Studies conducted after institution of these guidelines have shown that the majority of baccalaureate programs are complying (Spruck, 1980; Thomas & Price, 1980). However, a continuing problem for nurse educators is the lack of enthusiasm for research displayed by undergraduate students (Marriner, 1980; Wilson, 1982). This lack of enthusiasm has been found to persist even after research coursework is completed (Swenson & Kleinbaum, 1984). A variety of strategies for generating interest in research has been described and includes traditional lecture, computer-assisted instruction, and small group discussion (Hastings-Tolsma & Brockopp, 1986). However, to date, no nursing literature has been disseminated regarding use of the preceptorship model as a means of resocializing degree-seeking RNs into the researcher role.

THE PRECEPTORSHIP MODELEducationally, preceptorship is defined as the use of a role model, or mentor, who works one-on-one with a student and is a strategy strongly advocated for both the facilitation of cognitive learning and the acquisition of skills (Shamian & Lemieux, 1984). Preceptorship has also been found useful for pre-graduate nursing students in an effort to avoid the hazards of reality shock and burn-out (Kramer & Schmalenberg, 1977). Many degree-seeking RNs already have mastered clinical skills and some are experienced clinicians; but few have been exposed to nursing research. For RN students marginally interested in research or for those who would benefit from further clinical experiences, traditional teaching models may be adequate to meet learning expectations. However, for those RNe who previously have developed a high level of clinical competence and want to diversify and/or explore the researcher role, the preceptorship model offers an excellent framework for learning.

Actualization of the Research Preceptorship

All generic and RN senior level students at a large university school of nursing in the Southeast fulfill a preceptorship requirement during their final quarter. As of 1987, three RN students have designed and completed a research preceptorship with the Coordinator of Nursing Research at the teaching hospital affiliated with the university. The following is a description of the development, implementation, and evaluation of the research preceptorship.

ASSESSMENT- The students previously mentioned either requested or were encouraged by faculty to pursue a research preceptorship. Assessment was important for determining the appropriateness of the experience for each student. Interviews with the faculty advisor and the preceptorship program coordinator were arranged by the student to begin the assessment process. An RN student who demonstrated above-average cognitive and clinical aptitude throughout the course of matriculation was ideally suited for a research preceptorship. Documents useful in the assessment process for the research preceptorship included program applications, reference letters, and previous clinical evaluations. However, the nature of the student's inherent interest in research was assessed also. Careful assessment of both the student's motivation toward this type of experience and any future educational goals, which included graduate study for the students in this report, was essential. Time spent in assessment of the student's qualifications and goals prevented failure of unmet objectives and waste of professional time.

PLANNING - Each research preceptorship was coordinated through at least three individuals - the RN student, the assigned advisor (faculty member), and the researcher who was utilized as the preceptor. After the student was accepted for the experience, an organizational meeting of the student and the advisor was arranged, at which time expectations of the faculty member were made explicit. In addition, choice of a preceptor and negotiations for learning objectives were discussed at this meeting. The preceptor in this report was a doctorally prepared nurse researcher who was able to provide the student with a meaningful mentor-protege experience.

The student then interviewed with the selected preceptor, sharing the list of negotiated objectives and discussing logistical aspects of the preceptorship. Final approval of learning objectives was given by the advisor after the preceptor-student interview was completed and considered successful. Careful planning enhanced the potential for future favorable collaborative experiences between the school of nursing faculty and the researcher, who was employed at the teaching hospital affiliated with the school of nursing.

IMPLEMENTATION- The student began the preceptorship as a goal -oriented, adult learner, with explicit learning objectives and a qualified researcher to guide the experience. The first week was spent making contacts, planning experiences, and reading. Objectives for the preceptorship addressed the various areas of the research process, such as defining problems, collecting data, and interpreting findings. For example, one RN student developed an objective to increase personal computer literacy so that data entry would be possible at some point in the preceptorship. Ib accomplish this objective, arrangements were made for meeting with a computer-knowledgeable person to learn basic skills and for performing a self-study on computer use, utilizing a user-friendly program with an explicit manual. Another students objective of defining researchable problems was realized by touring nursing units to observe and identify problems, and by performing a "practice" literature search and written exercise. Numerous creative activities were arranged by each student to make the experience meaningful and challenging. However, getting involved in one or two different research projects as a data collector provided the student, perhaps, the best insight into the world of nursing research.

The researcher/preceptor functioned as a facilitator. Interfacement of the student and preceptor was variable according to each student's needs and objectives. For evaluative purposes, the preceptor was kept routinely apprised of the student's activities, problems, and state of objectives through regularly scheduled meetings with the student.

EVALUATION- For the traditional clinical preceptorship, both formative and summative evaluation mechanisms exist. These same mechanisms were useful and effective in evaluation of the research preceptorship. Each formative and summative evaluation involved input from several individuals - the student, the research preceptor, the faculty advisor, and the nurse researchers with whom the student worked. The use of formative evaluation allowed both the student and the preceptor to clarify, revise, or renegotiate learning objectives given the constraints of the research world. For example, one student working with a nurse researcher collecting data at an outpatient facility found that access to subjects was difficult and that time was being utilized poorly waiting on subjects. Hence, the preceptor was informed, and the student subsequently renegotiated to become involved with another project.

Because many of the preceptee's learning activities were conducted alone or with researchers other than the preceptor, feedback to the preceptor from the other researchers was essential in evaluating the student's progress. This information was also given to the students advisor. Evaluation conferences were held with the student, the advisor, and the preceptor at midquarter and at the end of the quarter to determine how well the learning objectives were being met.

Conclusion and Summary

While no empirical evaluation of this teaching/learning strategy has been performed, those who have participated in it believe that it is a useful and rewarding experience. The preceptorship affords an opportunity for the student to become actively involved in the research process so that research takes on new meaning beyond the classroom. Additionally, by working with nurse researchers, the degree-seeking RN is provided with numerous opportunities for resocialization. The research preceptorship also proved to be beneficial for the preceptor. Students brought a fresh perspective in their questions and in their observations of clinical nursing research. They also demonstrated to be capable and useful co-researchers when given guided assistance from the preceptor. In summary, the teaching/learning experience of a research preceptorship is mutually beneficial: The RN student is given the opportunity for resocialization in both the cognitive and affective domains, and the preceptor benefits from the inquiring minds of seasoned RN students and the competent assistance those students can provide.

References

  • American Association of Colleges of Nursing. (1986). Essentials of college and university education for professional nursing. Washington, D. C: Author.
  • Hastings-Tblema. M.T., & Brockopp, D.Y. (1986). Stimulating research: A sensory model. Western Journal of Nursing Research, 8, 197-206.
  • King, J.E. (1986). A comparative study of adult developmental patterns of RN and generic students in a baccalaureate nursing program. Journal of Nursing Education, 25, 366-371.
  • Kramer, M. (1981). Philosophical foundations of baccalaureate nursing education. Nursing Outlook, 29, 224-228.
  • Kramer, M., & Schmalenberg, J. (1977). ftith to biculturalism. Wakefield, MA: Aspen Systems.
  • Marriner, A. (1980). Strategies for teaching nursing research: Research preparation in baccalaureate nursing education. Western Journal of Nursing Research, 2, 539-542.
  • National League for Nursing. (1979). Characteristics of baccalaureate education in nursing. New York: Author.
  • National League for Nursing. (1982). NLN nursing data book 1981: Statistical information on nursing education and newly licensed nurses. New York: Author.
  • Queen, P.S. (1984). Resocializing the degree-seeking RN: A curriculum thread. Journal of Nursing Education, 34, 351-353.
  • Shamian, J., & Lemieux, S. (19841 An evaluation of the preceptor model versus the formal teaching model. Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing, 15(3), 86-89.
  • Spruck, M. (1980). Teaching research at the undergraduate level. Nursing Research, 29, 257-261.
  • Swenson, I., & Kleinbaum, A. (1984). Attitudes towards research among undergraduate nursing students. Journal of Nursing Education, 23, 380-386.
  • Thomas, B., & Price, M. (1980). Research preparation in baccalaureate nursing education. Nursing Research. 29, 259-261.
  • Wilson, H.S. (1982). leaching research in nursing: Issues and strategies. Western Journal of Nursing Research, 4, 365-373.

10.3928/0148-4834-19880901-11

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