BACKGROUND: On their journey to "becoming" doctors, medical students encounter a range of health professionals who contribute to their socialisation into clinical practice. Amongst these individuals are registered nurses (RNs) in clinical practice who are often employed by medical schools as clinical tutors. These RNs will encounter medical students on campus and later in the clinical setting.
AIMS: This qualitative study explored RNs' perceptions of their contribution to medical students' developing professional identities in order to provide a greater understanding of this process and ultimately inform future curriculum.
METHODS: This qualitative study took place in 2012 at one Australian medical school as part of a broader study exploring medical students' professional identity development from the perspectives of their teachers and trainers. Eight of the nine RNs involved in teaching procedural skills were interviewed. Recorded interviews were transcribed verbatim. Data were analysed inductively by the research team.
RESULTS: Two major themes emerged: RNs as change agents and RNs as facilitators of medical students' transition to the clinical environment. RNs as change agents related to their role modelling good practice, being patient-centred, and by emphasising factors contributing to good teamwork such as recognising and respecting individual professional roles. They facilitated students' transition to the clinical environment often through personal narratives, by offering advice on how to behave and work with members of the healthcare team, and by being a point of contact in the hospital.
CONCLUSION: Based on their descriptions of how they role modelled good practice and how they facilitated students' transition to clinical practice, we believe that RN clinical tutors do have the experience and expertise in clinical practice and a professional approach to patients to contribute to medical students' developing professional identities as future doctors.