Aim: To obtain the opinions of a group of mental health students on the effectiveness of problem-based learning (PBL) within a pre-registration nursing pathway.
Method: Focus groups were used to generate data and the sample consisted of 14 mental health branch students who, within the pre-registration nursing programme, formed a PBL group. The group met on an annual basis at key junctures during the three-year diploma programme. The focus groups were tape-recorded and the data interpreted and organised by utilising an adapted form of content analysis.
Results: Four themes were identified regarding the use of PBL: the students' initial adjustment to PBL; the impact of PBL on their secondment status; the application of PBL in clinical practice; and the students' reflective critique of PBL.
Conclusion: The discussion of the findings makes suggestions for the utilisation of PBL in future reviews of nursing curricula and outlines the implications for clinical practice. This includes the need to carefully plan the students' initial placement experiences and provide extra support at this stage. In addition, mentor preparation on the use of PBL in practice needs to be extended to ensure flexibility in the PBL process. It should be balanced with formal student support and courses must be planned to incorporate the learning needs of all discipline groups.