An exploration of personal, relational and collective well–being in nursing students during their training at a tertiary education institution
Watkins, Kirsten Doné
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Nursing students are part of the larger nursing community, and their well-being is closely related to that of the community in which they function. Various reports indicate that the South African nursing profession is in crisis due to staff shortages and poor working conditions. Insufficient numbers of registered nurses are entering the profession, and the resultant work pressure, especially for nurses working in the public sector, increases the risk of burnout. A pressing need exists for nursing students to graduate and enter the workforce to alleviate the serious staff shortage. The aim of the research was to explore the different dimensions of well-being as described by nursing students during their nursing studies. A purposive and availability sample was used to explore the experiences of first-year students of the School of Nursing Science at the North-West University during 2008. Qualitative data-gathering methods included in-depth interviews, focus group discussions, personal diaries and visual data-gathering methods such as collages and the Mmogo-method™. A secondary analysis of the qualitative data obtained during 2008 was conducted, and the findings were complemented by a qualitative, exploratory and inductive design to explore the experiences of the same students in the same context two years later in 2010. A case study method was used to explore the experiences of the students. Themes that emerged from the data gathered during the first and the second phase of the research relate to the three sites of well-being as described by Prilleltensky and Prilleltensky (2006), namely personal, relational and collective well-being. Well-being in this research refers to the complexity inherent in the multifaceted profession of nursing and is understood as optimal functioning in all aspects of the person in relation to other people as well as the broader context of the nursing community. The findings should be contextualised against the many adverse circumstances to which students are exposed during their first weeks of training. Many of the students are away from home, often for their first time, and they have to adapt to academic workloads and practical training hours as well as acquire the coping skills needed to manage these new challenges. The students in this study reported high levels of stress and anxiety during their training and said they felt under pressure because of the long hours and heavy workloads. Despite this pressure, many of the students maintained a positive attitude and reiterated their desire to become nurses. Relational well-being included support from friends, family members and lecturers. These were important sources of support for the students. Collective well-being was a major concern, and the students were outspoken about the unhealthy broader context in which they had to function. The situation in the nursing community generally is reflected in the training of nurses. This research highlighted a collective environment that was not conducive to the holistic well-being of the student nurses in the study. Such well-being is crucial as they enter the workforce and face the challenges encountered there.
- Humanities