There has been much written regarding nurse education and the socialisation of student nurses in clinical areas in the past (Olesen & Whittaker 1968, Orton, 1981, Melia, 1987, 1997, Ogier, 1989, Castledine, 1995, Bradshaw 2001, Spouse, 2003). This paper discusses the findings from an ethnographic case study surrounding experiences of adult branch student nurses on placement in clinical areas. Data collection methods included unstructured interviews with student nurses, mentors, ward managers and senior nurses from the NHS Trust where the research was undertaken and observational techniques. During the data analysis stage the concepts of power; language and culture were identified as boundaries the students faced and had to learn to overcome in the clinical areas. They needed to understand the language being used in the clinical areas and the inherent culture to be able to fit in with the team. Furthermore the concept of power and how this was exploited proved an issue that the students needed to understand in their quest to ‘learn to be a real nurse’. These concepts are explored and discussed as to how they affect students achieving their ultimate aim of becoming a ’real nurse’ within the United Kingdom health care system. A fundamental finding of this study was the students’ perceptions of the definition of a ‘real nurse’. School’s of nursing teach students the idealism of nursing practice based on patient need for example, personal hygiene, nutrition, elimination and mobility needs of patients continuing to enhanced skills that include cannulation and venepuncture. However when the students encounter clinical practice they often feel that this ideal being taught within the school of nursing does not portray the reality they experience throughout their clinical placements. Indeed the students often struggled to define the role of the registered practitioner and often felt ‘aggrieved’ at being asked to work alongside the unregistered staff members. Hogg and Abrahms (1988) demonstrated how the power and status relations between groups bear on social identity; the dominant groups in society have the power and the status to impose the dominant value system and ideology, which serves to legitimate and perpetrate the status quo. This theory of social identity can be related to the performance of students in clinical practice who want to manifest and learn the skills of registered practitioners and not those of the unregistered staff. The students perceive the registered group of staff to be the ‘higher status group’ which they wish to emulate and the unregistered staff to be the ‘lower status group’ that is not their role during their training period in clinical practice. This presentation will be relevant to academics and practitioners from an international audience to promote discussion and the sharing of experiences in this are
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