Student Nurses’ Experiences with Incivility in Clinical Education

Anthony, Maureen, and Joanne Yastik

Purpose: The purpose of this qualitative study was to: a.) explore the experiences of student nurses as targets of work place incivility in clinical education b.) describe specific behaviors on the part of nurses that students perceive to be uncivil, c.) explore the behaviors on the part of nurses that students perceived to be favorable, d.) explore how student nurses feel the school of nursing should deal with workplace incivility in clinical nursing  education.

Background: Clinical education has been found to be stressful for nursing students and research has identified nursing staff in clinical settings as a contributing factor. Incivility toward student nurses can diminish self-confidence, interfere with the learning process and affect the student’s desire to remain in nursing.

Method: Focus group methodology was used in this exploratory study. Four focus groups were conducted with 21 pre-licensure McAuley School of Nursing students. Data were collected with semi-structured interviews. Content analysis was used to analyze, code and categorize data. 

Results: Behaviors perceived to be uncivil fell into three themes: exclusionary (“We’re in the way”), hostile/rude (“We were always in tears”), and dismissive (“They just walk away”). Positive experiences were those in which the students reported feeling included by the staff nurses in patient care, particularly when the nurse initiated the interaction. Students felt schools of nursing should address clinical incivility by preparing students through discussion both prior to and after the clinical experience. They also felt better communication between faculty and staff as to the level of student and clinical objectives would be beneficial.

Conclusion: Results suggest that there is a perception on the part of student nurses that they are sometimes the target of incivility by staff nurses, and this has a significant effect on student experiences in the clinical areas. It is essential that all health care team members, including students, be educated about the organization’s code of conduct and expected professional behavior. It is important that the faculty member clarify with the nurses and managers, the level of students and what they are permitted and expected to do. Finally, the issue of incivility should be confronted in school of nursing, and students prepared through discussion, debriefing and simulation experiences