'Stepping in' or 'stepping back': how first year nursing students begin to learn about person-centred care

Nurse Educ Today. 2015 Jan;35(1):239-44. doi: 10.1016/j.nedt.2014.06.008. Epub 2014 Jul 4.


Background: The concept of person-centred care has gained international recognition over the last decade and forms one of the key concepts of our Nursing Quality Improvement Curricular Framework.

Objectives: This study aimed to investigate nursing students' learning about person-centred care during the first-year of their programme.

Methods: Qualitative thematic analysis of a section of placement learning documents from two consecutive cohorts of students from all fields of nursing (n=405), supplemented by three focus group discussions.

Results: Two conceptual categories of student approaches to learning emerged. Firstly, 'stepping back', or learning from a distance about how nurses provide care, often through reading case notes and care plans; second, 'stepping in', learning about the patient as a person by direct interaction with service users. Evidence of reflection on the patient's experience of care was limited. These results have resonance with existing pedagogical theories around preferences for active or passive styles of learning. The potential for clinical mentors to build student confidence and encourage direct engagement with patients was highlighted.

Conclusions: Students are aware of the concepts, principles and professional values of person-centred care from early in their programme; however, the majority tend to be preoccupied by learning about what nurses 'do', rather than 'how patients experience care'. Development towards a more person-centred approach may require targeted support from mentors to help students gain confidence and begin reflecting on how patients experience care.

Keywords: Evaluation research; Person-centred care; Practice learning; Student experience.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Education, Nursing, Baccalaureate*
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • Learning*
  • Models, Educational
  • Nursing Education Research
  • Patient-Centered Care*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Students, Nursing* / psychology
  • United Kingdom