Background: The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our society is profound, not least for the healthcare sector. On the one hand, this exceptional situation created unprecedented learning opportunities for nursing students. Yet, on the other hand, this situation can jeopardise nursing students learning trajectory.
Objectives: To study nursing students' experiences during clinical placement during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Design: Cross-sectional survey design.
Settings: Clinical placements during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Participants: Nursing students from nine Belgian nursing schools.
Methods: All students enrolled in nursing education are eligible to participate. The survey consists of five dimensions: demographics, risk perception, self-efficacy, support and communication, and resilience.
Results: The gaps that were identified by students focused on the need for more psychosocial support, establishing (regular) contact with their clinical placement supervisor, recognition of the difficult work situation, and the need for more space to unwind.
Conclusions: Nursing students expressed a strong need to be heard, prepared, and supported. Most students felt supported by their nursing schools. Because of COVID-19, the role of the preceptor became more important. However, due to several reasons, the perceptor did not always meet the student's expectations. Preparing students for specific competencies is needed. In spite of the efforts of nursing schools and clinical sites, students often got lost in the chaos of the pandemic. This resulted in practical worries, fewer learning opportunities, and even fundamental doubts about their choice to become a nurse. Finally, it crucial that nursing schools and clinical sites communicate about matters such as the responsibility for testing nursing students, the provisions of uniforms and personal protective equipment, and structurally sharing guidelines with students to provide safe patient care.
Keywords: COVID-19; Education; Mentoring; Nursing; Preceptorship; SARS-CoV-2.
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