Adult student nurses' experiences of encountering perceived child abuse or neglect during their community placement: Implications for nurse education

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle



Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)60-64
Number of pages12
JournalNurse Education Today
Early online date14 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2019
Publication type

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


While child nursing students may expect to encounter child abuse and neglect and assume a safeguarding role when they qualify, those undertaking adult nursing courses may not expect to come into contact with children and may be even less likely to expect to encounter child abuse or neglect. This paper presents the findings of an interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) study. Students learn through experience and reflection and Mezirow's Transformational Learning Theory (TLT) was used to explain the various ways in which nine adult nursing students attempted to make sense of and learn from their experiences of encountering perceived child abuse and neglect during their community placement.

Study aim
The study aimed to examine the learning journeys of undergraduate adult nursing students who encountered perceived child abuse and neglect during their community placement.

The research was located within an interpretative philosophical paradigm. Interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) provided an in-depth insight into participants' individual lived experiences.

Setting and participants
The fieldwork was undertaken at a Higher Education Institution in the North East of England. Participants were in the first year of an undergraduate nursing programme.

Data were collected using semi-structured face-to-face interviews and analysed using IPA.

The nine participants underwent a process of transformational learning after encountering perceived child abuse and neglect. They found the initial experience disorientating because it challenged their pre-conceived ideas about families and communities. They experienced a range of negative emotional responses, including anger and some expressed judgmental views towards parents. However, their frames of reference changed as they began to critically reflect on and process their experiences and they were able to recognize, albeit to varying degrees, that they had enhanced their knowledge and learnt from the experience. Their understanding of the role of the adult nurse changed and they recognised they had an important role to play alongside other professionals in safeguarding children.

The findings highlight there is a need for HEIs to ensure students on adult nursing programmes understand they have a role to play in protecting children; they also highlight a need for more effective preparation and support.

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