These terrifying three words: A qualitative, mixed methods study of students' and mentors' understandings of 'fitness to practise'

Elaine Haycock-Stuart, Jessica Maclaren, Christine James, Alison McLachlan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Background: There is little empirical published research pertaining to fitness to practise and pre-registration nursing students. Much of the existing fitness to practise literature focusses on medical students and there is a preponderance of literature reviews and descriptive or discursive papers.
Objectives: The multicentre study aimed to explore students’ and mentor’s understandings of fitness to practise processes in pre-registration nursing programmes.
Design: A qualitative study in the interpretive paradigm with interpretive analysis involving 6 focus groups and 4 face to face interviews with nursing students and mentors.
Setting: Eleven Higher Education Institutions providing pre-registration nursing education in the UK. Data were collected January 2014-March 2015 following ethical approval.
Participants: Purposive sampling was used to recruit mentors and nursing (but not midwifery) students from pre-registration nursing programmes at different stages of educational preparation.
Methods: Qualitatively driven semi-structured focus groups (n = 6) and interviews (n = 4) were conducted with a total of 35 participants (17 pre-registration nursing students and 18 nursing mentors).
Results: Three themes identified from the student and mentor data are considered: Conceptualising Fitness to Practise; Good Health and Character; and Fear and Anxiety surrounding Fitness to Practise Processes.
Conclusions: Uncertainty about understandings of fitness to practise contributed to a pervasive fear among students and reluctance among mentors to raise concerns about a student’s fitness to practise. Both students and mentors expressed considerable anxiety and engaged in catastrophic thinking about fitness to practise processes. Higher Education Institutes should reinforce to students that they are fit to practise the majority of the time and reduce the negative emotional loading of fitness to practise processes and highlight learning opportunities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15-22
JournalNurse Education Today
Issue number2
Early online date29 Apr 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2016

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • fitness to practice
  • student nurses
  • mentors
  • assessment
  • patient safety
  • qualitative mixed methods
  • interviews
  • focus groups


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