Clinical practices are key environments for skill acquisition during the education of nursing students, where it is important to encourage reflective learning. This study sought to explore the experience of final year nursing students during their clinical placement in emergency and intensive care units and to identify whether differences exist between female and male students. Using qualitative methodology, a documentary analysis of 28 reflective learning journals was carried out at a public university in Northern Spain. Four themes were identified: "an intense emotional experience", "the importance of attitudes over and above techniques", "identifying with nurses who dominate their environment and are close to the patient in complex and dehumanized units" and "how to improve care in critically ill patients and how to support their families". The female students displayed a more emotional and reflective experience, with a strong focus on patient care, whereas male students identified more with individual aspects of learning and the organization and quality of the units. Both male and female students experienced intense emotions, improved their learning in complex environments and acquired attitudes linked to the humanization of care. However, the experience of these clinical rotations was different between female and male students.
Keywords: clinical placements; emergency hospital service; intensive care units; nursing; nursing care; nursing education research; nursing students.