The contribution of clinical placement to nutrition and dietetics competency development: A student-centred approach
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Aim: The aim of the present study was to explore the student perception of competency development in nutrition and dietetics and the perceived impact of pre-placement preparation, the clinical placement learning environment, learning exposures and supervision on this. Methods: A qualitative investigation using semistructured interviews with 26 graduate students who had recently completed their final clinical placement, recruited purposively from three Australian universities was employed. Thematic analysis of the interview transcripts and triangular analysis of data was undertaken by the research team, with a mix of descriptive and interpretive analysis. Results: Students across all three universities generally described the placement experience as intense, personally challenging and a steep learning curve. Students felt they had adequate theoretical knowledge prior to placement but were less prepared for the practical application of their skills in a clinical setting. The learning environment varied across placement sites, with physical, organisation and social environmental factors all contributing to the students reported pathway to confidence and competence in practice. The style of supervision and supervisory practices varied considerably and emerged as a significant factor impacting on competency development. Conclusions: Nutrition and dietetic students appear to have a hierarchy of psychosocial and educational needs that need to be met in the placement environment in order to achieve competency. The present study provides a framework for enhancing the student experience and the effectiveness of clinical placements as a component of dietetic workforce preparation.
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