Aims and objectives. This paper explores the impact of a peer learning initiative developed to facilitate, purposefully, mutually supportive learning relationships between student nurses in the practice setting. Background. Finding effective strategies to support learning in the practice setting has been the focus of professional concern for a considerable time. In the UK clinical mentorship is seen as pivotal to ensuring fitness to practice; however, recent debate on the nature of learning has revealed the clinical workplace as a rich learning environment where learning occurs not only through hierarchical relationships, but also from a network of peer relationships. Formalising peer relationships through peer assisted learning is increasingly suggested as a strategy to support workplace learning and support novice students’ transition to the clinical setting. Despite the developing literature in this field there is limited understanding about how students experience facilitated peer relationships. Design. An interpretive qualitative design. Methods. Focus group interviews were used to collect interactive and situated discourse from nursing students who had recently participated in peer learning partnerships (n = 54). Narrative data were analysed thematically. Results. Findings suggest that active support from a fellow student reduced the feelings of social isolation experienced by novice students in initial clinical placements, helping them to deal more effectively with the challenges faced and reducing the factors that have an impact on attrition. In addition, the reciprocity of the peer learning partnerships facilitated understanding of mentorship and created a heightened sense of readiness for registration and professional practice. Conclusions. Peer learning partnerships facilitated by mentors in clinical practice can support the transition to nursing for first year students and can help more experienced students gain a confidence and a heightened readiness for mentorship and registered practice. Relevance to practice. Facilitated peer learning partnerships can enhance the student experience in the practice setting and can help maximise opportunities for learning and support. This suggests that peer assisted learning is a legitimate area for innovation and further research.
- focus groups
- peer learning