Students pursuing a career in nursing benefit from a variety of learning experiences, both in the classroom and the clinical environment. Though the pandemic impacted nursing education and initially put some clinical rotations on hold, nursing students have continued learning via an array of virtual and on-site clinical experiences.

One notable aspect of nursing education is peer-to-peer instruction, support, and mentorship. By creating opportunities for nursing students to interact with their peers in mentorship and other arrangements, you can help them make the most of their nursing instruction and build greater competency and confidence in their abilities.

 

The Benefits of Peer Education in the Classroom and Clinical Rotations

Feedback and support from peers offer value to students and professionals alike. In fact, Gartner research found that peer feedback can have a particularly strong impact in the workplace, capable of boosting employee performance up to 14 percent.

Before they enter the healthcare workplace, nursing students who learn from their peers have an opportunity to get firsthand knowledge from individuals who are on a similar educational path. By learning from the experiences of their peers, nursing students can deepen their education and have more rewarding clinical rotations. Peer-to-peer nursing education offers the following specific benefits.

Supplements Faculty and Program Support

The faculty and administrators of your health professions program are likely always busy. Instructors carry a full teaching course load, while program administrators offer students a broad range of resources to support their classroom and clinical learning experiences. 

By creating opportunities for students to share experiences and obtain guidance from their nursing peers, you provide nursing students with an additional layer of support beyond what they receive from teachers and program administrators.

Offers Real-World Advice for an Effective Clinical Learning Experience

Nursing students who have one or more clinical rotations under their belt can offer suggestions to less experienced students who are just beginning the clinical portion of their nursing education. For example, nursing peers can offer tips for preparing for clinical rotations, balancing coursework with clinical responsibilities, and managing day-to-day stress. 

Gives Students Additional Role Models Beyond Faculty and Professional Nurses

A study published in the Journal of Clinical Nursing found that nursing students valued exposure to positive role models in clinical and university settings and viewed them as beneficial to their overall learning. Thankfully, licensed nurses aren’t the only possible role models for nursing students. Students can also find role models among their more experienced peers and learn from their educational experiences. 

Fills Instructional Gaps Caused by Faculty Shortages

Advanced nursing students may not have the qualifications to teach a class independently, but they can support student classroom learning by working as faculty assistants. Students acting in this capacity are critically important lately, given that the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a surge of nursing students and not enough faculty to teach them. As enrollment outpaces the growth of nursing program faculty, nursing students can help their peers by filling the teacher staffing gap.

Builds Confidence in Student Nursing Abilities

Most nursing students will naturally gain more confidence in their nursing abilities as they participate in clinical rotations and gain real-world clinical experience. With added instruction and feedback from their peers, nursing students can develop the courage to try new things and test their knowledge in a safe environment. One study found that peer nursing instruction was effective in allowing nursing students the time and space to practice and build clinical skills without feeling judged.

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How to Encourage Peer-to-Peer Healthcare Education

Given the many benefits of peer education, it’s worthwhile creating an environment where students have plentiful opportunities to get support and mentorship from each other. Consider the following programs and activities to enhance the effectiveness of your nursing education program.

1. Informal and Formal Mentorship Programs

Mentorship provides a safe space for students to test ideas and learn strategies for improving their performance in specific areas. For example, mentorship programs can be informal, where students share experiences in an unstructured environment. But they can also be more formal, with pre-set meeting times, objective setting, and monitoring by a nursing program administrator.

2. Peer-to-Peer Online Forums

An online forum may be the perfect way to help today’s digitally savvy students stay connected. Providing an opportunity for students to connect with their peers online supports a hybrid or remote learning model. It also allows students who are away at different clinical sites to connect from any location.

3. Attendance at Professional Association Meetings and Activities

Encouraging nursing students to gather at professional association meetings, training sessions, and other events can help them build camaraderie and develop relationships of mutual trust and respect. As students participate in these activities with their peers, they will naturally find opportunities to discuss what they learn and share feedback informally.

4. Formal Peer Review

A peer review program can help nursing students see their work through a different lens. It also offers opportunities for students to make corrections in the performance of nursing practices as they learn. Peer review can be beneficial in the classroom or a clinical setting; it can include peer critiques of written work and peer assessments of student interactions with patients in the clinical setting.

5. Networking Sessions

Although nursing students in the same classes may know each other well, they may be less familiar with students in other classes, years, or campuses. By bringing different groups of students together, you can support deeper relationships between them and create opportunities to learn from each other informally. For example, networking sessions can connect students who have completed their clinical training with students just starting their clinical rotations.

 

Support Students Throughout Their Clinical Rotations

Nursing students on campus have access to a wealth of resources to help them navigate their classes and day-to-day campus life. But when they are preparing to participate in clinical site rotations, they may need even more support to understand clinical site requirements and the best ways to boost their learning in real-world clinical scenarios. Having peers who provide feedback, mentorship, and instruction can smooth the path to successful clinical rotations for nursing students, allowing them to build confidence in their knowledge and abilities.

In addition to providing opportunities for nursing students to learn from their peers before and during clinical rotations, you also need to make sure they are fully prepared to begin their clinical training. One critical aspect of the preparation process includes helping students gather and submit immunization and other health records. For tips on getting started and creating a fuss-free path to full immunization compliance, read our guide, Improving Immunization Compliance: A Guide for Your Clinical Programs.

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