Vol. 20 No. 2 (2016): Journal of Nursing Pensar Enfermagem
Original Articles

Nursing students’ first clinical experience

Dulce Cabete
Professora Adjunta, PhD, ESEL
Patrícia Alves
Professora Adjunta, Mestre em Ciências de Enfermagem, ESEL
Cristina Baixinho
Professora Adjunta, Doutorada em Ciências de Enfermagem, ESEL
Helga Rafael
Assistente, Doutorada em Ciências de Enfermagem, ESEL
Laura Viegas
Professora Adjunta, Mestre em Ciências de Enfermagem, ESEL
Célia Simão de Oliveira
Professora Coordenadora, Doutorada em Enfermagem, ESEL

Published 2016-12-30


  • clinical teaching,
  • nursing student,
  • nursing education,
  • qualitative study

How to Cite

Cabete, D., Alves, P., Baixinho, C., Rafael, H., Viegas, L., & Simão de Oliveira, C. (2016). Nursing students’ first clinical experience. Pensar Enfermagem, 20(2), 3–25. https://doi.org/10.56732/pensarenf.v20i2.117


Background: Clinical teaching is an important component of nursing education, exposing students, from an early stage, to nursing care and to the nursing profession. Over the past decades, significant political and social changes have also influenced the structure and organization of curricula in nursing education. Therefore, it is vital to adapt teaching strategies to maximize students’ learning opportunities.

Aim: The aim of this study is to describe the essential structure of a students’ first clinical experience.

Method: This is a descriptive and retrospective study within a phenomenological approach. Participants were first year nursing students who had completed a one-week clinical experience. From the forty students enrolled, eleven volunteered to participate.
Data was collected through non-structured interviews. The interviews were audio-taped and transcribed word-by-word. Ethical issues were respected, confidentiality and free and informed participation was guaranteed. The interviews took place only after students’ assessments were finished.

Results: The phenomenological analysis was performed in order to describe the essential structure of students’ lived experiences. Data showed that the first clinical experience is a process comprising of four dimensions: professional identity awareness, consciousness of existing and missing skills, learning process, and the feelings and emotions accompanying the whole process.

Conclusion: This study highlights the confirmatory nature of the first clinical experience towards profession choice, a student’s need to feel acknowledged and accepted by the client, and the fact that the entire experience is accompanied by a strong emotional component. Further research is needed to investigate these aspects to determine whether the dimensions identified are specific to the first clinical experience and to identify ways in which the educational process could be improved.


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