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Open Access Research article

Master's level in primary health care education - students' and preceptors' perceptions and experiences of the alteration in the clinical areas

Anna Löfmark* and Anna-Greta Mamhidir

Author Affiliations

Department of Health and Caring Sciences, University of Gävle, Sweden

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BMC Nursing 2010, 9:11  doi:10.1186/1472-6955-9-11

Published: 16 June 2010

Abstract

Background

Many Western European countries are undergoing reforms with changes in higher education according to the Bologna declaration for Higher European Education Area. In accordance with these changes, the Master's degree was introduced in specialist nurse education in Sweden in 2007, and as a result changed the curriculum and modified theoretical and clinical areas. The aim of this study was to investigate students' and preceptors' perceptions and experiences of Master's level education in primary health care with a focus on the clinical area.

Methods

A descriptive design and qualitative approach was used. Interviews with ten students and ten preceptors were performed twice, before and after the clinical practice period. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim and themes formulated.

Results

Students perceived alteration in the content of the education at the Master's level such as more independence and additional assignments. The preceptors perceived benefits with the Master's level but were unsure of how to transform theoretical and abstract knowledge into practice. Writing the Master's thesis was seen by students to take time away from clinical practice. For some students and preceptors the content of the Master's level clinical practice area was experienced as vague and indistinct. The students had not expected supervision to be different from earlier experiences, while preceptors felt higher demands and requested more knowledge. Both students and preceptors perceived that education at the Master's level might lead to a higher status for the nurses' profession in primary health care.

Conclusions

Students and preceptors experienced both advantages and disadvantages concerning the change in specialist nurse education in primary health care at the Master's level. The altered educational content was experienced as a step forward, but they also questioned how the new knowledge could be used in practice. The relevance of the Master's thesis was questioned. Supervision was seen by students as an introduction to the work of the district nurses' work. Preceptors perceived high demands and did not feel enough qualified for student supervision. Both groups considered it an advantage with the change in education that could result in higher status for nurses working in primary health care.