“Am I a student or a Healthcare Assistant?” A qualitative evaluation of a programme of prenursing care experience

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Aim: To examine the experiences of prenursing healthcare assistants (HCA) during a 6-month programme of prenursing care experience. Background: Care experience prior to commencing programmes of nurse education is broadly considered to be advantageous. However, it is not clear how formal care experience prior to nurse education has an impact on the values and behaviours of the aspirant nurse. Design: A longitudinal prospective qualitative study using focus group discussions. Methods: Data were collected from 23 prenursing HCA during September 2013–February 2014. Three focus groups were held at the beginning, middle, and end of the programme of care experience at each of the participating hospitals. A thematic analysis was used to analyse data sets from each hospital. Findings from each hospital were then compared to reach final themes. Results: Five major themes were identified in the analysis of qualitative data: personal development; positioning of role in the healthcare team; support and supervision; perceived benefits; and advice and recommendations. These themes were underpinned by deep aspirations for better care and better nurses in the future. Conclusions: Prenursing care experience can positively prepare aspirant nurses for programmes of nurse education. The benefits identified were confirmation of aspiration (or otherwise) to pursue nursing, learning opportunities, and aspiration to improve patient experience. Risks for the programme included poor supervision, role ambiguity or confusion, demotivation through a deteriorating view of nursing, and poor treatment by others. The longer term impact on values and behaviours of this cohort requires further evaluation.




Whiffin, C. J., Baker, D., Henshaw, L., Nichols, J. J., & Pyer, M. (2018). “Am I a student or a Healthcare Assistant?” A qualitative evaluation of a programme of prenursing care experience. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 74(11), 2610–2621. https://doi.org/10.1111/jan.13788

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